There will be reviews! Because I don’t have a choice 🤣. And content! And hopefully more lists and tips!
April 3 : Blog tour | Guest Post | The Silken Rose by Carol McGrath
April 7 : Blog tour | Review | The Lost Child by Emily Gunnis
April 12 : Blog tour | Review | I Am Dust by Louise Beech
April 15 : Blog tour | Extract | Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl
April 16 : Blog tour | Review | The Murder Game by Rachel Abbott
April 30 : Blog tour | Review | Strangers by C.L. Taylor
That’s it for March. I predict April will be much of the same. The lockdown measures our government has taken have been extended to April 19th and I expect they will be extended again when that time comes. We are supposed to go to a family lunch thing near the end of the month, with about 40 people, half of which I don’t even like, so to be quite honest I’ll be a happy bunny if that doesn’t go ahead. 😉
Stay safe, stay home, keep laughing if you can and take excellent care of yourselves! ❤️
With most of the world’s population self-isolating and not being able to go anywhere, I thought I’d put together a wee list of books set in isolated locations. Let’s face it, things could always be worse. You could be somewhere with a murderer on the loose, for instance. Or zombies. Or one of my worst nightmares, on a ship, surrounded by nothing but water. 😱😂
These ten books were some that popped up in my head straight away when I thought of isolated places. I’m sure there are many more.
Anywho, off we go!
Ten strangers, apparently with little in common, are lured to an island mansion off the coast of Devon by the mysterious U.N.Owen. Over dinner, a record begins to play, and the voice of an unseen host accuses each person of hiding a guilty secret. That evening, former reckless driver Tony Marston is found murdered by a deadly dose of cyanide.
The tension escalates as the survivors realise the killer is not only among them but is preparing to strike again… and again…
Of course, I’m kicking things off with the brilliant Agatha Christie. I haven’t read that many of her books yet but this is definitely a favourite.
A remote lodge in upstate New York is the perfect getaway … until the bodies start piling up. When the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity–and all contact with the outside world–the guests settle in for the long haul. Soon, though, a body turns up–surely an accident. When a second body appears, they start to panic. Then they find a third body. Within the snowed-in paradise, something–or someone–is picking off the guests one by one. They can’t leave, and with no cell service, there’s no prospect of getting the police in until the weather loosens its icy grip. The weekend getaway has turned deadly. For some couples, it’s their first time away. For others, it will be their last.
Note to self : never book a break at a remote lodge in Winter
To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.
Each of the guests have a secret but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.
Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.
Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up.
Island. Water. Never going to happen.
This was meant to be the perfect trip.
The Northern Lights. A luxury press launch on a boutique cruise ship.
A chance for travel journalist Lo Blackwood to recover from a traumatic break-in that has left her on the verge of collapse, and to work out what she wants from her relationship.
Except things don’t go as planned.
Woken in the night by screams, Lo rushes to her window to see a body thrown overboard from the next door cabin. But the records show that no-one ever checked into that cabin, and no passengers are missing from the boat.
Exhausted, emotional and increasingly desperate, Lo has to face the fact that her sleep problems might be driving her mad or she is trapped on a boat with a murderer – and she is the sole witness.
Anyone want to know the odds of little old me ever getting on a cruise ship?
1939: Europe is on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd, a servant girl, boards an ocean liner for Australia. She is on her way to a new life, leaving behind the shadows in her past. For a humble girl, the passage proves magical – a band, cocktails, fancy dress balls. A time when she is beholden to no one. The exotic locations along the way – Naples, Cairo, Ceylon – allow her to see places she’d only ever dreamed of, and to make friends with people higher up the social scale who would ordinarily never give her the time of day. She even allows herself to hope that a man who she couldn’t possibly have a future with outside the cocoon of the ship might return her feelings. But Lily soon realises that her new-found friends are also escaping secrets in their past. As the ship’s glamour fades, the stage is set for something awful to happen. By the time the ship docks, two of Lily’s fellow passengers are dead, war has been declared and Lily’s life will be irrevocably changed.
Like I said, ships are a bad idea.
Jon thought he had all the time in the world to respond to his wife’s text message: I miss you so much. I feel bad about how we left it. Love you. But as he’s waiting in the lobby of the L’Hotel Sixieme in Switzerland after an academic conference, still mulling over how to respond to his wife, he receives a string of horrifying push notifications. Washington, DC has been hit with a nuclear bomb, then New York, then London, and finally Berlin. That’s all he knows before news outlets and social media goes black—and before the clouds on the horizon turn orange.
Now, two months later, there are twenty survivors holed up at the hotel, a place already tainted by its strange history of suicides and murders. Those who can’t bear to stay commit suicide or wander off into the woods. Jon and the others try to maintain some semblance of civilization. But when the water pressure disappears, and Jon and a crew of survivors investigate the hotel’s water tanks, they are shocked to discover the body of a young girl.
As supplies dwindle and tensions rise, Jon becomes obsessed with investigating the death of the little girl as a way to cling to his own humanity. Yet the real question remains: can he afford to lose his mind in this hotel, or should he take his chances in the outside world?
As far as doom scenarios go, it can’t get much worse than this.
Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Arctic town of Vardø must fend for themselves.
Three years later, a sinister figure arrives. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband’s authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God, and flooded with a mighty evil.
As Maren and Ursa are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them, with Absalom’s iron rule threatening Vardø’s very existence.
Islands are clearly a popular isolated location. This one has no men. Doesn’t sound too bad 🤔
The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body
On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.
But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.
And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?
Oh, look! Another island! And a wedding party go wrong. At least there’s champagne 😂
Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.
Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.
Iceland. Always brings the goods. I know, it’s an island too. Sounds so pretty though. Not that Agnes is in any way able to appreciate that. Such a great novel! Read it! I’ll pimp it until I’m blue in the face!
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.
Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.
But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
Quite possible the worst case scenario? All alone on another planet with no means of escape EVER!I don’t know about you but suddenly this self-isolation stuff doesn’t sound so bad, huh?
If you have any suggestions, please do leave them in the comments and I will be more than happy to compile a new list next week with your ideas. Or heck, do a post of your own. That works too!
Have you read any of the books on this list? Would you like to?
I have more lists planned over the next few weeks. I mean, I’m not reading so I might as well make lists, I guess. 😉
Stay safe and take excellent care of yourselves! xx
So, you’re a bookworm. And suddenly, you find you have the time to read as much as you’ve always wanted to. What better time to start catching up on series than right now?! I thought I’d offer some tips (though not necessarily all series) over the next few days/weeks/months (? Yikes!)
Today, I’m kicking things off with the Matthew Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom. If you’re a fan of historical (crime) fiction, this series is for you.
The series currently stands at 7 books and they are sure to keep you busy for quite a while. Book one, Dissolution, is the shortest at 456 pages. Book seven, Tombland, is the longest and has 866 glorious pages.
| ABOUT THE MATTHEW SHARDLAKE SERIES |
We first meet Matthew Shardlake in Dissolution. Matthew is a lawyer, working out of Lincoln’s Inn in London in Tudor times, in the service of Thomas Cromwell. King Henry VIII has ordered the dissolution of the monasteries. At one of the monasteries, all hell breaks loose and a commissioner is found murdered. Matthew and his assistant are sent to Scarnsea to investigate.
With Matthew, C.J. Sansom has created a wonderful protagonist. As a hunchback, Matthew is often not taken seriously, somewhat underestimated. He struggles with his beliefs, he is often in pain and vulnerable, but he’s also incredibly intelligent and astute. His disability will not stop him from getting to the truth, no matter who tries to block his way. But the Tudor times were turbulent, in case you didn’t know and although Matthew is richer and more privileged than most people, he is still powerless in the midst of the political schemers like Thomas Cromwell and Richie Rich. Matthew may not be at court, but he’s close enough and with unpredictable people around him at all times, you just never know where the danger will be coming from.
To me, the Shardlake series offers the best of both worlds. I love crime fiction and I love historical fiction, especially set in Tudor times, and in this case I get both. It’s clear a humongous amount of research goes into these books. You end up learning quite a lot but it never turns into a long boring history lesson. C.J. Sansom has managed to create engaging characters, some of which come back time and time again so you can see them develop and there’s a fabulous balance between Shardlake’s private and professional life.
Big books do not scare me. I read the Game of Throne series, everything after that seems like a breeze. The books in the Shardlake series never felt too long for me, despite their page count. The investigations Shardlake undertakes are always fascinating and the books have me absolutely hooked from start to finish. I’m not normally one who reads a book more than once but these have a special place on my bookshelves and I know that I will return to them at some point.
I don’t know if there will be an eighth book, though I fiercely hope so. If there ever was a perfect time for you to get caught up, then this is it. C.J. Sansom is an outstanding author and he is, in my most humble opinion, head and shoulders above anyone else in this genre.
I’m really going to have to replace that picture with something else if I keep doing these monthly posts instead. 🤷🏼♀️
Anywho, welcome to my February Wrap-Up! There shall be books because yes, I have been reading. I know, you are as shocked as I am. Really, with four storms in four subsequent weekends, there was very little else to do. Not that I’m complaining about the lack of socialising, you understand. I am, however, complaining about the weather! It feels like we’re stuck in a never-ending loop of Autumn. Dark, wet, miserable days. All that wind. And white fluffy crap! What the hell?! I need blue skies and sunshine!
This wrap-up is a day late as I am a little under the weather. I’ve been successfully dodging people with all various sorts of germs since before Christmas but apparently the universe decided that I was not going to get through this ridiculously mild Winter unscathed. Still, excellent timing, if I do say so myself, since it got me out of socialising yesterday. Silver lining and all that.
Other than that, February was a quiet one and yet, it flew by.
Anyway, let’s move on and see what I read.
| BOOKS I READ IN FEBRUARY |
Would you look at that? 20! I’m impressed with myself. 😂 One or two disappointments on that list but overall, a fab month of reading.
| BOOKS I LISTENED TO IN FEBRUARY |
Yes, you are seeing this right. Audiobooks. I may have joined Audible. I don’t even recognise myself anymore.
Apple Tree Yard was okay. I didn’t particularly like the narrator so that was a bit of an issue. The story itself is incredibly slow paced, somewhat implausible at times, I thought, and it has left me with unanswered questions. But I did enjoy the premise, the bit-by-bit unraveling of the how, the what, the why and the mysterious who.
Bitter Sun, on the other hand, is absolutely brilliant! I wasn’t entirely sure it would be for me because while the synopsis grabbed my intention immediately, it’s also a coming-of-age story and I don’t usually do that well with them. But I was hooked from the start and couldn’t stop listening. The narrator’s American accent took a while to get used to (I personally prefer the British one) but it fit the story perfectly. I really, really enjoyed this one!
| BOOKS I BOUGHT IN FEBRUARY
Personally I feel that’s not too bad for an entire month 🤔
| BOOK POST WHAT LANDED ON MY DOORSTEP IN FEBRUARY |
With thanks to Orenda Books, Penguin Random House, Jane Corry and Rachael English!
You may have noticed the lack of reviews so far this year. My reading mojo is still nowhere to be found so I’m constantly avoiding reading books I must review for one reason or another. So all I can tell you right now, looking ahead to March, is that there will be at least 3 reviews since I have 3 blog tours coming up. But other than that, I honestly have no idea.
I may need to reconsider these monthly wrap-ups. If I post weekly ones, at least the dust won’t have a chance to settle on my blog. And also, these monthly posts are a lot of work to put together! I’m exhausted! 😂
That’s a wrap for February! Back to the sofa with a cuppa and my current book, which is A Keeper by Graham Norton, and possibly a nap. 🤔
Wishing you all a great week and lots of happy reading! xx
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Golden Key by Marian Womack! My thanks to Lydia at Titan Books for the invitation to join! I have an extract to share with you today but first, let’s see what The Golden Key is all about.
Author : Marian Womack Title : The Golden Key Pages : 320 Publisher : Titan Books UK Publication date : February 18, 2020
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
London, 1901. After the death of Queen Victoria the city heaves with the uncanny and the eerie. Séances are held and the dead are called upon from darker realms.
Samuel Moncrieff, recovering from a recent tragedy of his own, meets Helena Walton-Cisneros, one of London’s most reputed mediums. But Helena is not what she seems and she’s enlisted by the elusive Lady Matthews to solve a twenty-year-old mystery: the disappearance of her three stepdaughters who vanished without a trace on the Norfolk Fens.
But the Fens are a liminal land, where folk tales and dark magic still linger. With locals that speak of devilmen and catatonic children found on the Broads, Helena finds the answer to the mystery leads back to where it started: Samuel Moncrieff.
| EXTRACT |
‘Sam, I have been meaning to talk to you.’
‘I am most impressed at your recovery. Health and occupation are the main purveyors of a happy mind! Have you had any inkling of what you might want to do next?’
Sam had feared this conversation, but he was prepared for it.
‘Mind you, you are welcome to stay as long as you want!’
‘I had the notion of preparing myself to climb some mountain,’ Sam cut in, in the face of Charles’s embarrassed look.
‘Very good! Train the body and the spirit will look after itself. The most important thing is to be able to control the dark impulses—’
Sam had a private, interior laugh. Was his uncle serious? Was he preaching against dark and fanciful notions, while taking him to a séance, of all things?
‘Let the work of the day tire you so that you fall into a black well when you go to sleep,’ continued the older man. A cloud passed over Sam’s mind; what did his uncle know about his nightmares? Perhaps he shouted in his dreams. Did he shout about the ruined house, about Viola, about the ghostly seamstress?
Charles imparted some more of this kind of vague, Spiritualist-magazine advice during their drive to Gower Street, while Sam nodded and uttered agreements in all the right places. They reached their destination shortly after half past seven. A maid opened the door for them, and they were shown into a parlour. The room was in half-darkness, and what light there was twisted the aspidistras at the other end into fantastical shapes. Sam weighed up his surroundings, an old habit from a time when he used to pick fights in taverns. Entrances and exits.
Two members of the Gower Street Circle were greeting the guests: serious Miss Clare Collins, a poised young black woman with a shocking streak of white in her hair, and a Scot, Thomas Bunthorne, whom Sam had met previously. Charles greeted both of them, and introduced Miss Collins to Sam:
‘My dear boy, here you have the most faithful group of devotees in the whole of London!’ he announced, and Miss Collins laughed heartily, as though Charles had said something truly amusing. Sam felt as if he had missed a trick.
‘How do you do, Miss Collins?’ he offered.
‘Sam, Miss Collins here will direct the séance,’ Charles explained.
‘But I thought—’
Charles and Miss Collins smiled at Sam’s confusion.
‘Don’t worry, Mr Moncrieff. Madame Florence is the one you have come to see tonight, and you will see her. She will lock herself in that cabinet,’ Miss Collins explained, signalling an imposing piece of black mahogany furniture at the other end of the room. Sam was unpleasantly reminded of an oversized coffin. ‘From there she will summon the spirits, but I will direct the questions from the table.’
The rest of the small gathering was completed by a little plump woman in a worn-out gown who kept wringing her hands, and a distinguished-looking lady dressed in heavy mourning regalia, sitting on a chair with the aloof air of not needing to talk to anyone. Sam noted that Charles greeted her coldly, in a manner suggesting that he must have known her in passing, but he did not offer an introduction. Mr Woodbury, an elderly bookseller whom Sam had seen sometimes in Charles’s house, arrived shortly before the proceedings began.
He had not expected to see the medium before the séance, but Madame Florence appeared in the dimly lit room. She moved like a graceful hostess, talking to everyone, quite as if she were about to announce dinner instead of a meeting with the dead. She was not at all as Sam had expected: he had pictured a plump spinster, an earthly matron surrounded by a group of admiring fools.
‘Madame Florence,’ said Charles, ‘may I introduce Mr Samuel Moncrieff?’
She extended a heavily bejewelled hand in his direction, and Sam bent down to kiss it. He had the impression that she was sizing him up, and that she was happy with what she saw. Madame Florence seemed to be a woman who made sure her partialities were understood. She had deep, intense green eyes, which seemed to pierce through his skull and communicate hidden meanings.
‘Are you a believer, Mr Moncrieff? Or will I have a problem with you?’
Her directness disarmed him for a second. She must have noticed the slight bewilderment in his eyes, for she added:
‘I’m only joking! Please excuse me. It’s just that I can smell a non-believer from miles away.’
‘Madame Florence, if I may—’ he started. ‘I am new to Spiritualism, and there are still certain things that perplex me. One question, for example. If mediumship is a service, as the members of your religion proclaim, pray inform me on one point. I do not quite understand why these people have to pay to be here.’
‘Sam!’ Charles looked horrified.
‘Don’t worry, Mr Bale. Nothing gives me more pleasure than dispelling these little malicious and unfounded myths about my profession. Let’s put your assertion to the test, Mr Moncrieff. Do you see that lady?’ She pointed at the woman in the worn-out dress. ‘She came to see me days ago. She needed help, solace. I could not turn her down. Of course, she could not afford to pay for my services, but she needed them nonetheless. People have their pride, Mr Moncrieff, even the less fortunate among us.’ She fixed him with an icy stare, as if daring him to take up the issue with her. ‘She is a very talented milliner, and has promised to make me a new summer hat in lieu of payment. I have accepted. It is more than fair, and I only fear that I shall be benefiting much more than her in the exchange.’
Her honesty was refreshing, he thought. Sam noticed that his uncle had moved away, with a wounded look.
‘That is very generous of you,’ he said.
‘And that man over there…’ To Sam’s surprise she pointed to Mr Woodbury, who was conducting what looked like an agitated exchange with Thomas Bunthorne. ‘As well as being a celebrated vegetarian, and a significant figure in the temperance movement, he happens to want to study my psychic powers. Perhaps even to shame me as a fraud!’ She suppressed a little laugh. ‘Anyway, I cannot charge him for attending this gathering in his pursuit of scientific knowledge! You are in safe hands, Mr Moncrieff. I assure you he will scrutinise everything that happens here this evening.’
To her amusement, he didn’t know what else to say.
‘Pray, excuse me, I had better prepare myself,’ Madame Florence cut off. ‘A psychic expert and a non-believer!’ she laughed. ‘I have to offer an excellent performance tonight, don’t you think?’ and she walked away from him.
If this excerpt has piqued your interest, then why not grab yourself a copy of The Golden Key right now!
Marian Womack is a bilingual writer (English and Spanish), and co-founder of Calque Press. She is a graduate of the Clarion Writer’s Workshop, and her debut English-language eco-storytelling collection, Lost Objects, was published in 2018 by Luna Press . Her fiction has been part of an installation in Somerset House about activism and ecology, translated into Italian, and nominated for both BSFA and British Fantasy Awards. She teaches creative writing at Oxford University, and works for Cambridge University Libraries in a teaching and engagement role. Her doctoral research looks at the communication of climate change through fiction.
Set in London in 1837, The Unseeing is the story of Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding.
After Sarah petitions for mercy, Edmund Fleetwood is appointed to investigate and consider whether justice has been done. Idealistic, but struggling with his own demons, Edmund is determined to seek out the truth. Yet Sarah refuses to help him, neither lying nor adding anything to the evidence gathered in court. Edmund knows she’s hiding something, but needs to discover just why she’s maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone would willingly go to their own death?
[So, so good!]
| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |
FBI agent Reed Markham is haunted by one painful unsolved mystery: who murdered his mother? Camilla was brutally stabbed to death more than forty years ago while baby Reed lay in his crib mere steps away. The trail went so cold that the Las Vegas Police Department has given up hope of solving the case. But then a shattering family secret changes everything Reed knows about his origins, his murdered mother, and his powerful adoptive father, state senator Angus Markham. Now Reed has to wonder if his mother’s killer is uncomfortably close to home.
Unable to trust his family with the details of his personal investigation, Reed enlists his friend, suspended cop Ellery Hathaway, to join his quest in Vegas. Ellery has experience with both troubled families and diabolical murderers, having narrowly escaped from each of them. She’s eager to skip town, too, because her own father, who abandoned her years ago, is suddenly desperate to get back in contact. He also has a secret that could change her life forever, if Ellery will let him close enough to hear it.
Far from home and relying only on each other, Reed and Ellery discover young Camilla had snared the attention of dangerous men, any of whom might have wanted to shut her up for good. They start tracing his twisted family history, knowing the path leads back to a vicious killer—one who has been hiding in plain sight for forty years and isn’t about to give up now.
[I’m enjoying this one but I didn’t realise it was the third in a series and I’m struggling a little with the gap in my background knowledge.]
| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |
He had never heard himself scream before. It was terrifying.
Alone, trapped in the darkness and with no way out, Bart Campbell knows that his chances of being found alive are slim.
Drugged and kidnapped, the realisation soon dawns that he’s been locked inside a shipping container far from his Edinburgh home. But what Bart doesn’t yet know is that he’s now heading for France where his unspeakable fate is already sealed…
DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach are working on separate cases that soon collide as it becomes clear that the men and women being shipped to France are being traded for women trafficked into Scotland.
With so many lives at stake, they face an impossible task – but there’s no option of failure when Bart and so many others will soon be dead…
[One of my favourite series (yes, again) and I’m really looking forward to this latest instalment.]
Looks like I’m in for another fab week! What are you reading? Do let me know! Happy reading! xx
Technically this isn’t a weekly wrap-up but more of a look back on the month of January. You may have noticed there haven’t been any weekly wrap-ups because I just haven’t had the time to write them up. January is a blur of shopping, dinners, lunches, parties and one really bad hangover that made me vow never to drink again. That particular resolution lasted about five days. I mean, there was another party, what’s a girl to do? 🤷🏼♀️
Thankfully, February looks set to be a whole lot quieter. I feel like I’ve already reached my yearly limit of socialising, to be honest. Still think it’s completely overrated too 😉.
Anywho, on to the books! I’m sure you’ll all be happy to know that with a wee push in December, helped considerably by my loyal buddy reader, I did in fact manage to nail my Goodreads challenge. But for the first time since joining that challenge, it was a bit of a struggle. For someone who read almost 300 books in one year, to “only” have read 201 last year seems somewhat baffling to me but whatever. It is what it is. I am thoroughly enjoying the lack of pressure though so I’ve set this year’s challenge to a measly 100 and we will see what happens. You may also have noticed that my blog tour boycott isn’t quite working out anymore but I’m being extremely picky and hopefully I won’t be sliding down that particular slippery slope too hard again.
Right, let’s take a lot at the books I’ve managed to remove from my TBR in January.
| BOOKS I READ IN JANUARY |
15 books. I remember the days when I read double that in a month. What is wrong with me?! Some brilliant books in that list though and five of those you will undoubtedly see again at the end of the year. Guess away!
| BOOKS I BOUGHT IN JANUARY |
Erm … you may want to grab a cuppa for this one. 😳
Do you think I have a problem? 🤔
| BOOK POST WHAT LANDED ON MY DOORSTEP IN JANUARY |
With thanks to Avon, Headline, Orenda, Titan Books and Transworld.
Today is paperback publication day for the wonderful Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts so I thought I’d re-share my review from April last year. This is one of those novels that just captured my heart from the first page and unsurprisingly, it made my list of “books of the year”.
Author : Elizabeth Letts Title : Finding Dorothy Pages : 368 Publisher : Quercus Publication date : January 9, 2020 (paperback)
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
Maud Gage Baum, widow of the author of the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, met Judy Garland, the young actress playing the role of Dorothy on the set of The Wizard of Oz in 1939. At the time, Maud was seventy-eight and Judy was sixteen. In spite of their age difference, Maud immediately connected to Judy–especially when Maud heard her sing “Over the Rainbow,” a song whose yearning brought to mind the tough years in South Dakota when Maud and her husband struggled to make a living–until Frank Baum’s book became a national sensation.
This wonderfully evocative two-stranded story recreates Maud’s youth as the rebellious daughter of a leading suffragette, and the prairie years of Maud and Frank’s early days when they lived among the people–especially young Dorothy–who would inspire Frank’s masterpiece. Woven into this past story is one set in 1939, describing the high-pressured days on The Wizard of Oz film set where Judy is being badgered by the director, producer, and her ambitious stage mother to lose weight, bind her breasts, and laugh, cry, and act terrified on command. As Maud had promised to protect the original Dorothy back in Aberdeen, she now takes on the job of protecting young Judy.
| MY THOUGHTS |
Sometimes you pick up a book and like magic, everything seems to fall into place. For me, Finding Dorothy is one of those books. It’s extremely hard for me to put into words exactly why that is but I completely fell in love with everything about it. The era, the characters, the writing itself … it all came together and created such a wonderful reading experience.
1939, Hollywood. Filming has started on The Wizard of Oz, based on the book by L. Frank Baum. His seventy-eight year old widow, Maud, feels fiercely protective of her husband’s story. After all, she knows all its secrets and she’s determined to make the sure the film will do her husband’s story justice. But she soon realises she may need to protect the film’s star Judy Garland as well.
Maud’s story is a fascinating one. Growing up as the daughter of Matilda Joslyn Gage, it seemed her life had been entirely planned out. Matilda was a fierce and determined woman who battled for women’s right to vote and for girls to be allowed a higher education. Maud ends up being one of the first female coeds at Cornell University. But her mother’s shadow follows her everywhere and Maud never really quite finds her place there. Then she meets Frank. An actor, a weaver of stories and words, a dreamer and he completely sweeps her off her feet. And me right alongside with it.
Both Maud and Frank captured my heart from the moment I met them. From traveling throughout the country with theatre shows, to living in the harsh prairies of the Dakota Territory where they struggled to make a living, to that moment where the stars align and Frank creates his masterpiece, I became utterly invested and engrossed.
Even though Frank, who’s incredibly fickle and apparently unable to settle down, got on my nerves sometimes; even though I sometimes felt Maud needed a bit more of a backbone; and even though at times I much more enjoyed the chapters about their lives than the ones set in 1939, I found this novel immensely immersive. At some points it even brought a lump to my throat and throughout it all there’s Maud, this energetic and passionate woman whom I absolutely adored.
“Magic isn’t things materializing out of nowhere. Magic is when a lot of people all believe in the same thing at the same time, and somehow we all escape ourselves a little bit and we meet up somewhere, and just for a moment, we taste the sublime.”
This quote sums up my reading experience entirely. I have tasted the sublime. This review doesn’t do this novel justice at all but I hope it does bring across how much I love it and that you decide to give it a go and hopefully have the same enchanting and magical experience I had.
Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?
Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.
[I can’t believe it took me this long to finally read A Man Called Ove. Absolutely loved it and if it had been published this year, it undoubtedly would have made my list of top books.]
| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |
Charles Dickens should be looking forward to Christmas. But when his latest book, Martin Chuzzlewit, is a flop, his publishers give him an ultimatum. Either he writes a Christmas book in a month or they will call in his debts and he could lose everything. Dickens has no choice but to grudgingly accept…
[This is about as Christmassy as things will get at Casa Novel Deelights 😄]
| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |
Everyone has a secret in Tall Oaks . . .
When three-year-old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town. Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect.
Desperate mother Jess, whose grief is driving her to extreme measures.
Newcomer Jared, with an easy charm and a string of broken hearts in his wake.
Photographer Jerry, who’s determined to break away from his controlling mother once and for all.
And, investigating them all, a police chief with a hidden obsession of his own.
[I wouldn’t at all be surprised if I mentioned this one before. Every time I try to pick it up, some other book demands my immediate attention. We’ll see what happens but if I were you, I wouldn’t be too shocked if it’s not on the list next week 😂]
Still trying to reach my Goodreads challenge goal. Eight to go. Anyone want to place any bets? (No, Kelly! There are no prizes 😜)
What are you reading this week? Do let me know! Happy reading! xx
Author : Bella Ellis Title : The Vanished Bride Series : Bronte Mysteries #1 Pages : 337 Publisher : Hodder & Stoughton Publication date : November 7, 2019
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters–the Brontë sisters–learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.
These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors.” Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines–it’s seeing what is not there.”
As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril.
| MY THOUGHTS |
For those of who you do not know, Bella Ellis is a pen name for author Rowan Coleman and I’m getting to that stage where I’m beginning to think she can just write me a shopping list and I’ll read it and love every word of it.
A young mother disappears from her home, leaving only a big pile of blood in her bedroom but no clue as to her whereabouts. When word of this mystery reaches the home of the Brontë sisters, they take it upon themselves to go out and try to solve what happened to this young woman.
I was a little wary at first to have these three pretty iconic characters fictionalised as “lady detectors”, investigating a possible crime. But the warmth with which Bella Ellis brings these sisters to life won me over from the get-go. It is abundantly clear from reading this first instalment in the Brontë Mysteries that Bella Ellis deeply loves Charlotte, Emily and Anne and that a lot of research went into this. I soon found myself pulled along in their enthusiasm trying to solve the case of the vanished bride.
But The Vanished Bride is more than just a mystery. It highlights the plight of women in those days; how they were seen as property; how they weren’t allowed their own opinions or were definitely not allowed to voice them; how their place was at home, raising children and most definitely not running wild across the countryside. Some of these women truly suffered but they had no means to escape some of the brutal events they had to endure. These circumstances stand in sharp contrast with the peaceful lives of the sisters.
Beautifully written, hugely atmospheric and with engaging characters, The Vanished Bride made me wish I could run across the fields and the moors along with the Brontë sisters. Each sister has a distinctive voice and with each one of them getting their own point-of-view, it truly allows the reader to get to know them better. Throughout the story, I leaned more towards Emily but at the end, through all the squabbles and disagreements, rivalry and slight jealousy, giggles and love, I realised I adored all three equally. I absolutely loved The Vanished Bride and I can’t wait to spend more time with these three characters, solving the next mystery they are sure to stumble upon.