Well, I’d hoped that this month the world might have been in a happier place, but sadly that is not the case. The situation in Ukraine is heart-breaking and I can only respect the bravery and resilience of all those that are trying to cope with something we never thought we’d see again in Europe (not that it makes it any better if it’s happening elsewhere either)
I suspect we’re all alternating between watching the news or trying to avoid it, because it’s a difficult watch that leaves one feeling totally helpless. As it’s my birthday next month I’ve set up a fundraiser via Facebook as an alternative to birthday gifts. Some of you have already kindly donated and I’m extremely grateful for that. In addition I know many of the rest of you will have donated to the numerous charities doing their best to support those affected, but if anyone can help, clicking on the image will take you through to the donation page.
OK I think it’s time to get bookish. I’ve had another good reading month, largely due to the continued cycling. I’m still covering a minimum 15km a day, which guarantees me 45 minutes of reading. I’m currently (virtually) cycling my way around the Golden Triangle of Delhi – Agra -Jaipur. This brings back personal memories for me as in 2005 I actually covered part of the route when I cycled the 480km from Fatehpur Sikri to Pushkar. Let me say you haven’t lived (or diced with death) until you’ve cycled along the Agra/Jaipur highway or attempted to cross a roundabout in Jaipur. I’m sure there’s an Indian reading list in their somewhere, so watch this space it might happen sooner rather than later.
I’m still attempting to read through my backlog and not doing too badly. My best was finally reading Finding Philippe by Elizabeth Pewsey which has been sitting on a shelf since circa 2004!! Sadly, though it’s been waiting so long it wasn’t even listed on my Goodreads list so I couldn’t delete it! I had another achievement this month as WordPress informed me I’d made my 1000th post – not a figure I ever imagined reaching. As I’ve just renewed by blog for another year I shall do my best to make inroads into the next 1,000. I’m always immensely grateful that anyone actually reads these posts, so thank you!
Now to the books …
(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)
Books I Bought this Month
The Start of Something by Miranda Dickinson
Two lonely people.
One note in the window.
And what happens when they reach out…
Lachlan Wallace is stuck at home after a car accident stalled his army career. With months of physiotherapy still to endure and only his rescue dog and cat for company, he’s taken to gazing out of the window, watching the world spin on without him. And then he notices a vase of flowers on the windowsill of the apartment opposite his. Drawn to their hope and colour, he decides to reach out and sticks a message in his window…
Bethan Gwynne is a stranger in a new town. Bringing up her son Noah by herself, she is slowly rebuilding her life, but loneliness is one obstacle she has yet to overcome. She’s intrigued by a glimpse of her neighbour in the apartment across from hers – and then, one evening, she sees a message in his window just for her:
WHAT ARE THOSE FLOWERS CALLED?
And so begins a love story of two people reaching out, daring to trust a stranger…
The Woman in the Middle by Milly Johnson
Shay Bastable is the woman in the middle. She is part of the sandwich generation – caring for her parents and her children, supporting her husband Bruce, holding them all together and caring for them as best she can.
Then the arrival of a large orange skip on her mother’s estate sets in motion a cataclysmic series of events which leads to the collapse of Shay’s world. She is forced to put herself first for a change.
But in order to move forward with her present, Shay needs to make sense of her past. And so she returns to the little village she grew up in, to uncover the truth about what happened to her when she was younger. And in doing so, she discovers that sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to find the only way is up.
The Switch by Beth O’Leary
Leena is too young to feel stuck.
Eileen is too old to start over.
Maybe it’s time for The Switch…
Ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Newly single and about to turn eighty, Eileen would like a second chance at love. But her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen… So Leena proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love, and Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire.
But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – local schoolteacher, Leena learns that switching lives isn’t straightforward. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, and with the online dating scene. But is her perfect match nearer to home than she first thought?
The Patient by Tim Sullivan
No fingerprints. No weapon. No witnesses. Can DS Cross prove it was murder?
DS George Cross can be rude, difficult, and awkward with people. But his unfailing logic and dogged pursuit of the truth means his conviction rate is the best on the force. Now, this unusual detective is met with an even more unusual case.
When a young woman is found dead, the Bristol Crime Unit is quick to rule it a suicide: the woman had a long history of drug abuse. But her mother is convinced it was murder: her daughter had been clean for years and making strides in a new therapy programme.
As an outsider himself, DS Cross is drawn to cases involving the voiceless and the dispossessed. He is determined to defy his bosses and re-open the investigation, even if it costs him his career. Soon he is mired in a labyrinth of potential suspects, but can he solve the case before his superiors shut it down for good?
These Days by Lucy Caldwell
Two sisters, four nights, one city.
April, 1941. Belfast has escaped the worst of the war – so far. Over the next two months, it’s going to be destroyed from above, so that people will say, in horror, My God, Belfast is finished.
Many won’t make it through, and no one who does will remain unchanged.
Following the lives of sisters Emma and Audrey – one engaged to be married, the other in a secret relationship with another woman – as they try to survive the horrors of the four nights of bombing which were the Belfast Blitz, These Days is a timeless and heart-breaking novel about living under duress, about family, and about how we try to stay true to ourselves.
One Night on the Island by Josie Silver
ONE COTTAGE. TWO STRANGERS.
EVERY GREAT LOVE STORY STARTS SOMEWHERE . . .
Cleo writes about love stories every day. She just isn’t living one of her own.
When the editor of her dating column asks her to marry herself on a remote Irish island – a sensational piece to mark Cleo’s thirtieth birthday – Cleo agrees. She’s alone but not lonely, right? She can handle a solo adventure.
Cleo arrives at her luxury cabin to find a tall, dark, stubborn American who insists it’s actually his. Mack refuses to leave, and Cleo won’t budge either. With a storm fast approaching, they reluctantly hunker down together. It’s just one night, after all . . .
But what if one night on the island is just the beginning?
Sylvia Plath by Linda Wagner-Martin
Sylvia Plath is widely recognized as one of the outstanding poets of the 20th century.
Her Collected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize posthumously in 1982, nearly twenty years after her death. Her only published novel, The Bell Jar, has become a modern classic.
Because Plath drew so heavily on her own experiences in both her poetry and her fiction, the outlines of her life are familiar to readers. In her determination to be both wife and mother on the one hand, and teacher and writer on the other, Plath tried simultaneously to fulfil and to fight the conventions that bound women in the 1950s.
In this biography, the first to draw on unpublished journals and letters recently made available, Linda Wagner-Martin examines the ironies and contradictions of Sylvia Plath’s life, as well as her remarkable achievements.
The Affair by Hilary Boyd
On the glamorous shores of Lake Como, Connie meets Jared.
She’s married. He’s young. But that doesn’t stop the heat rising between them.
And so begins a long, hot, intoxicating summer where Connie succumbs to temptation – breaking her marriage vows.
At the end of summer, Connie returns to her husband, ready to put the affair behind her.
But Jared has other ideas . . .
Where There’s a Will by Linda Coles
A dog walker discovers the body of a young homeless man in Hunsbury Hill Country Park. It carries a message: ‘your move’.
Part-time grave digger and cab driver Will Peters knows just what it’s like living on the streets and vows the young man’s death will not be brushed aside during the mayor’s re-election campaign. Forging a relationship with local detectives, Will gets creative and acquires information any way he can. With the help of ex-con Birdie Fox and elderly hard-nosed trade unionist Stanley Kipper, Will sets about bringing the killer to justice.
But as the case unfolds, and the death toll rises, the police uncover corruption on a massive scale, and it appears the murders are far more personal than anyone could have possibly imagined.
The Spa-Break by Caroline James (a pre-order)
A weekend at the spa will leave four old friends with a whole lot more than they’d bargained for…
The glossy brochure promised a serene experience of total tranquillity and rejuvenation, but what best friends Bridgette, Emily, Serena and Marjory get is a weekend that upends their lives!
There for a girls’ weekend to celebrate Bridgette’s impending seventieth birthday, the spa soon has these spicy sexagenarians realising that there are unexpected benefits to age and experience, and that over the hill certainly doesn’t mean out of the game…in any respect…
Ethel Rosenberg : a Cold War Tragedy by Anne Sebba
Ethel Rosenberg’s story has been called America’s Dreyfus Affair: a catastrophic failure of humanity and justice that continues to haunt the national conscience, and is still being played out with different actors in the lead roles today.
On 19th June 1953 Ethel Rosenberg became the first woman in the US to be executed for a crime other than murder. She was thirty-seven years old and the mother of two small children. Yet even today, at a time when the Cold War seems all too resonant, Ethel’s conviction for conspiracy to commit espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union makes her story still controversial. This is an important moment to recount not simply what FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called the ‘trial of the century’, but also a timeless human story of a supportive wife, loving mother and courageous idealist who grew up during the Depression with aspirations to become an opera singer. Instead, she found herself battling the social mores of the 1950s and had her life barbarically cut short on the basis of tainted evidence for a crime she almost certainly did not commit.
Anne Sebba’s masterly biography makes full use of the dramatic prison letters Ethel exchanged with her husband, lawyer and psychotherapist over a three-year period. Sebba has also interviewed Ethel’s two sons and others who knew her, including a fellow prisoner. Ethel’s tragic story lays bare a nation deeply divided and reveals what happens when a government motivated by fear tramples on the rights of its citizens.
If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane
If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real?
Laurie and Jamie have the perfect office romance
(They set the rules via email)
Everyone can see they’re head over heels
(They staged the photos)
This must be true love
(They’re faking it)
When Laurie is dumped by her partner of eighteen years, she’s blindsided. Not only does she feel humiliated, they still have to work together.
So when she gets stuck in the lift with handsome colleague Jamie, they hatch a plan to stage the perfect romance. Revenge will be sweet…
But this fauxmance is about to get complicated. You can’t break your heart in a fake relationship – can you?
The One by Claire Frost
What happens when you lose the love of your life just three months after you meet him?
Lottie Brown has finally found The One. Leo is everything she’s ever wanted – he’s handsome, kind, funny and totally gets her. Three months into their relationship, Lottie is in love and happier than ever before. But then Leo tragically dies, and Lottie is left floundering. As she struggles to stop her life falling apart, Lottie learns more about the man she thought she knew, and starts to question whether Leo really was as perfect as he seemed…
The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures by Holly Hepburn
When Hope loses her husband, she fears her happiest days are behind her. With her only connection to London broken, she moves home to York to be near her family and to begin to build a new life.
Taking a job at the antique shop she has always admired, she finds herself crossing paths with two very different men. Will, who has recently become the guardian to his niece after the tragic death of her parents. And Ciaran, who she enlists to help solve the mystery of an Egyptian antique. Two men who represent two different happy endings.
But can she trust herself to choose the right man? And will that bring her everything she really needs?
Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson
From the pleasure palaces and gin-shops of Covent Garden to the elegant townhouses of Mayfair, Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s Daughters of Night follows Caroline Corsham as she seeks justice for a murdered woman whom London society would rather forget . . .
London, 1782. Desperate for her politician husband to return home from France, Caroline ‘Caro’ Corsham is already in a state of anxiety when she finds a well-dressed woman mortally wounded in the bowers of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. The Bow Street constables are swift to act, until they discover that the deceased woman was a highly paid prostitute, at which point they cease to care entirely. But Caro has motives of her own for wanting to see justice done, and so sets out to solve the crime herself. Enlisting the help of thieftaker Peregrine Child, their inquiry delves into the hidden corners of Georgian society, a world of artifice, deception and secret lives.
But with many gentlemen refusing to speak about their dealings with the dead woman, and Caro’s own reputation under threat, finding the killer will be harder, and more treacherous, than she can know . . .
Future Perfect by Felicia Yap
What if today was your last day…
A bomb has exploded during a fashion show, killing a beautiful model on the catwalk. The murderer is still at large… and he may strike again. Yet this is the least of Police Commissioner Christian Verger’s worries. His fiancée Viola has left him. He has to keep his tumultuous past a secret. To make things worse, his voice assistant Alexa is 99.74% sure he will die tomorrow.
Moving from snowy 1980s Montana to chic 1990s Manhattan to a drone-filled 2030s Britain, FUTURE PERFECT is an electrifying race to solve a murder before it’s too late. Yet it is also a love story, a riveting portrait of a couple torn apart by secrets, grief and guilt. A twisted tale of how the past can haunt a person’s future and be used to predict if he will die… or kill.
Books I Read
Ella’s Ice Cream Summer by Sue Watson
Ella’s life just hit rock-bottom, but can a summer by the sea mend her broken heart? When life gives you lemons… make ice-cream!
Life hasn’t always been easy for single mum Ella, but she has just hit an all-time low; she’s jobless, loveless, very nearly homeless and, to make matters worse, now the owner of a pocket-sized pooch with a better wardrobe than her.
Packing her bags (and a bigger one for the dog), Ella sets off for the seaside town of Appledore in Devon to re-live the magical summers of her youth and claim her portion of the family ice-cream business: a clapped-out ice-cream van and a complicated mess of secrets.
There she meets gorgeous and free-spirited solicitor, Ben, who sees things differently: with a little bit of TLC he has a plan to get the van – and Ella – back up and running in no time.
Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith
Isabel Dalhousie thinks often of friends, sometimes of lovers, and on occasion of chocolate. As an Edinburgh philosopher she is certain of where she stands. She can review a book called In Praise of Sin with panache and conviction, but real life is . . . well, perhaps a bit more challenging – particularly when it comes to her feelings for Jamie, a younger man who should have married her niece, Cat. Jamie’s handsomeness leaves Isabel feeling distinctly uneasy, and ethically disturbed. ‘I am a philosopher’, she thinks, ‘but I am also a woman’. And more disturbance is in store. When Cat takes a break in Italy, Isabel agrees to run her delicatessen. One of the customers, she discovers, has recently had a heart transplant and is now being plagued by memories that cannot be rationally explained and which he feels do not belong to him. Isabel is intrigued. So intrigued that she finds herself rushing headlong into a dangerous investigation. But she still has time to think about the things that possess her – things like love and friendship, and, of course, temptation. The last of these comes in many forms – chocolate, for example, or seductive Italians . . .
Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You by Annie Lyons
Eudora Honeysett is done – with all of it. Having seen first-hand what a prolonged illness can create, the eighty-five-year-old has no intention of leaving things to chance. With one call to a clinic in Switzerland she takes her life into her own hands.
But then ten-year-old Rose arrives in a riot of colour on her doorstep. Now, as precocious Rose takes Eudora on adventures she’d never imagined she reflects on the trying times of her past and soon finds herself wondering – is she ready for death when she’s only just experienced what it’s like to truly live?
Finding Home by Kate Field
She might not have much in this world, but it costs nothing to be kind…
Meet Miranda Brown: you can call her Mim. She’s jobless, homeless and living in her car… but with a history like hers she knows she has a huge amount to be grateful for.
Meet Beatrice and William Howard: Bill and Bea to you. The heads of the Howard family and owners of Venhallow Hall, a sprawling seaside Devonshire estate… stranded in a layby five hours from home the night before their niece’s wedding.
When fate brings the trio together, Mim doesn’t think twice before offering to drive the affable older couple home. It’s not like she has anywhere else to be. But as the car pulls into the picturesque village of Littlemead, Mim has no idea how her life is about to change…
The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed
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.
Exit by Belinda Bauer
Meet Felix Pink. The most unlikely murderer you’ll ever have the good fortune to spend time with.
When Felix lets himself in to Number 3 Black Lane, he’s there to perform an act of charity: to keep a dying man company as he takes his final breath . . .
But just fifteen minutes later Felix is on the run from the police – after making the biggest mistake of his life.
Now his world is turned upside down as he must find out if he’s really to blame, or if something much more sinister is at play. All while staying one shaky step ahead of the law.
Elle’s A to Z of Love by Claire Huston
Haileybrook, a beautiful village in the peaceful Cotswolds countryside, is most people’s idea of heaven on earth.
Born and raised in this small slice of paradise, Elle Bea can’t wait to leave.
It should be easy, but every time she packs her bags for exotic adventures, old loves and loyalties pull her back.
Will Elle be forced to forget her dreams of far-flung places and epic romance, or can she grab one last chance to have it all?
Ellie and the Harp Maker by Hazel Prior
Sometimes it takes a chance encounter to discover what happiness really is . . .
Meet Dan: Dan needs peace and order. He likes perfectly triangular sandwiches, the way coffee smells of sunshine and harvest, and the sound of birdsong that drifts into his harp-making workshop on Exmoor. His life is quiet, predictable, and safe from any danger of surprises.
Meet Ellie: Ellie is a dreamer. But recently Ellie has stopped dreaming and her world has become very small. Her days are spent keeping a perfect home for her husband, Clive, and trying to keep him happy.
When Ellie stumbles across Dan’s workshop, they cannot imagine that their lives are about to change forever…
The Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen by Juliet Ashton
It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but Cherry Blossom Mews is a miraculous place. It’s somewhere that finds you, rather than the other way around.
Sadie McQueen has leased a double fronted space in this small cul de sac in a culturally diverse corner of central London. The cobbles muffle the noise of double-deckers roaring past the arched gates. Turn right and you are in a futuristic maze of corporate glass monoliths. Turn left and you see a wide street with many different houses. Towering above the mews are the degenerating tower blocks of an infamous estate. The old folks home and the nearby school are both in need of TLC; the private members’ club that set up shop in a listed Georgian building has been discreetly refurbished at huge expense.
Into this confusion comes Sadie. She fell in love with the street the moment she first twisted her ankle on its cobbles. Her double-fronted unit is now a spa. She has sunk all her money into the lease and refurbishment. She’s sunk all her hope into the carefully designed treatment rooms, the calm white reception space, the bijou flat carved out of the floor above.
Sadie has a mission to connect. To heal herself from tragedy. Sadie has wrapped the mews around her like a warm blanket, after unimaginable loss and unimaginable guilt. Her hard-won peace is threatened, not only by the prospect of the mews going under but by a man aptly named Hero who wakes up her comatose heart.
Sadie has a lot to give, and a lot to learn, not least that some ghosts aren’t ghosts at all.
Everything Love Is by Claire King
Baptiste Molino has devoted his life to other people’s happiness. Moored on his houseboat on the edge of Toulouse, he helps his clients navigate the waters of contentment, yet remains careful never to make waves of his own.
Baptiste is more concerned with his past than his future: particularly the mysterious circumstances of his birth and the identity of his birth mother. But Sophie, the young waitress in his local bar, believes it is time for Baptiste to rediscover passion and leads him into the world on his doorstep he has long tried to avoid.
However, it is Baptiste’s new client who may end up being the one to change his perspective. Elegant and enigmatic, Amandine Rousseau is fast becoming a puzzle he longs to solve. As tensions rise on the streets of the city, Baptiste’s determination to avoid both the highs and lows of love begins to waver. And when his mother’s legacy finally reveals itself, he finds himself torn between pursuing his own happiness and safeguarding that of the one he loves
Finding Philippe by Elizabeth Pewsey
From fog-bound London to sun-drenched France…
1947. Exasperated by her tyrannical family, Vicky escapes from rationing and austerity Britain and flees to the south of France.
But she’s not there just for the glorious food, wine and sunshine: she has an inheritance to claim, and a mystery to solve.
Can she find her wartime husband, Philippe d’Icère? Is he alive or dead? A hero or a traitor? An imposter, or a true Frenchman?
Do the answers lie in the Languedoc village of St Aphrodise, where danger lurks in the ancient streets?
How can she be sure who’s a loyal friend and who a bitter enemy?
Vicky seems destined to fail—or will she, in the end, find out the truth about Philippe?
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
Mildred Lathbury is one of those ‘excellent women’ who is often taken for granted. She is a godsend, ‘capable of dealing with most of the stock situations of life – birth, marriage, death, the successful jumble sales, the garden fete spoilt by bad weather’.
As such, she often gets herself embroiled in other people’s lives – especially those of her glamorous new neighbours, the Napiers, whose marriage seems to be on the rocks. One cannot take sides in these matters, though it is tricky, especially as Mildred, teetering on the edge of spinsterhood, has a soft spot for dashing young Rockingham Napier.
This is Barbara Pym’s world at its funniest and most touching.
We Belong Together by Beth Moran
Eleanor Sharpley has been living a lie…
Needing to escape her London life quickly, Eleanor throws her things into the back of her car, and heads to her erstwhile best friend Charlie’s family farm.
But Charlie isn’t there. Instead she finds Charlie’s grieving brother Daniel, her eight-month old daughter Hope (a daughter Eleanor had known nothing about), and a crumbling and unloved Damson Farm.
Damson Farm lies at the edge of the village of Ferrington, with the river Maddon flowing at its heart. But Ferrington is a village divided by more than just a river – it is split in two by an age-old feud – between the Old Side and the New Side. Eleanor has run from her problems, straight into a family and a world that has problems of its own.
But Damson Farm has magic too, and as winter gives way to spring, the old farm starts to come to life under Eleanor’s love and care. The orchard starts to blossom with daffodils and bluebells, and the sound of bees busy in their hives fills the warming air. Can Eleanor bring Daniel and the feuding village of Ferrington back to life too, or will her secrets catch up with her first?
Fix You by Carrie Elks
Can the one who broke your heart be the one to heal it?
On New Year’s Eve, 1999, Hanna and Richard meet. She is a born and bred Londoner with plans for a career in journalism. He is the son of a wealthy New Yorker and destined for Wall Street. As Hanna and Richard go back to their own worlds they keep in touch, and when Hanna has her heart broken it’s Richard she turns to. They reunite and fall deeply, madly in love.
But they can’t possibly imagine the ways their love will be tested. Fifteen years after they first meet, neither can bear to hear the other’s name spoken. Then one day Hanna walks into Richard’s office and reveals a shocking secret. Richard must decide if he can forgive her. And both need to choose whether to take a second chance on happiness, or if their love is beyond repair?
So how did I do with my reading intentions?
A-Z Reading Challenge, This Month E & F
|Ella’s Ice Cream Summer||Kindle||May 2017|
|Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You||Kindle||Sept 2020|
|Ellie and the Harp Maker||Kindle||July 2019|
|Everything Love Is||Kindle||Feb 2016|
|Excellent Women||Book||Feb 2017|
|Friends, Lovers, Chocolate||Book||pre 2013|
|Finding Home||Kindle||July 2021|
|Fortune Men||Book||Dec 2021|
|Fall and Rise of Sadie McQueen||Kindle||Jan 2020|
|Fix You||Kindle||Mar 2015|
Wading Through Treacle or Weeding the Shelves (real and virtual)
|Unread ebooks||Unread Tree Books|
|Start of Month||3914||765|
|End of Month||3836||755|
That’s me for this month so all that’s left to say is : Happy Reading!