Books September 2022

Book #43 “Her Majesty’s Royal Coven” by Juno Dawson. I saw this book mentioned in a Saturday paper, and when I looked on Libby it was available so I borrowed it. I was going to finish my other book, but then someone else but a hold on this, so I thought I should read it. It is a book about women, friendship, gender, identity and witches, set in the current time mainly in North Yorkshire and it is brilliant. My only complaint is the last few chapters were there to set things up for a subsequent volume, but I am pleased there will be a subsequent volume.

Book #44 “Breath” by James Nestor. I saw a mention of this book in something I was reading about relaxation, and it was available on Libby. It was very interesting but I found the style irritating. The author decorates his text with minute details of characters and their appearances, it is all very US American in examples and approach. But I know more about breathing than I did, in particular that breathing slowly in and out through the nose is a good thing, and if you type “breathing exercise” into Google there is a little app to guide you to do this.

Book #45 “1979” by Val McDermid. This was an exciting thriller set in 1979 Glasgow. The hero was a young reporter (Alison Burns) and we follow her and another young reporter through a small story and two larger ones. There is a murder as well and we follow Allie (Alison) as she tries to find the truth. A very good read.

Book #46 “The Appeal” by Janice Hallett. I enjoyed the author’s “The Twyford Code” which I read earlier this year – this book had some similarities with it. We start alongside two young legal clerks reading emails and other correspondents between the main characters. There are lots of hidden secrets that are hinted at, while the characters discuss their amateur dramatics, the fund raising for a sick child. About half way through there is a murder (we all expected that). It then becomes clear the clerks’ boss believes there was a mis-carriage of justice and with some additional correspondence the clerks (and reader) try to work out what really happened. I found it slow going at first as characters revealed themselves in their email but then it got very exciting.

Books August 2022

Book #38 “The Castaways” by Lucy Clarke. This was a great read, a thriller told by two sisters one telling what happened 2 years earlier when her plane crashed. The other sister tells the story in the present time, in her hunt to discover what happened, fuelled by the the pilot turning up dying on an island in Fiji.

Book #39 “Family Tree” by Sairish Hussain. A story of a British Muslim family set in West Yorkshire (Bradford) from 1990s to the present day. One of the reviewers says “Invites you in, not as a stranger but as a family friend”, which exactly captures it. There is minute details of family life, and the difficult traumas – the book starts with the death of the mother. I learnt so much reading this. And it was an engaging read.

Book #40 “Silverview” by John le Carre – his last novel. A brilliant story with several strands, linked to long retired spies. Plenty of twists. I could hardly put the book down – I am only sorry it wasn’t longer.

Book #41 “A Slow Fire Burning” by Paula Hawkins. I am less than half way through this and finding it slow going. It is a who dunnit, but I don’t really find myself interested in knowing. The author wrote “Girl on a Train” and I thought I enjoyed it, but this is not engaging me so it can go back to Libby for someone else to borrow.

Book #42 “The Man Who Died Twice” by Richard Osman. I put this book on hold with Libby back at the beginning of February and it took over 6 months for my turn – and that was largely due to Wokingham library paying for 2 more copies. Any way it was worth the wait. The plot was somewhat far fetched, but the separate story lines came together nicely and the retired heroes were most certainly the winners. There is a new book about to be released I wonder how early I can put my name down for it?

Books July 2022

Book #31 “The Island of Missing Trees” by Elif Shafak. A story that starts in the 1970s and the present day, with a young Cypriot couple from both sides of the divide (Turkish and Greek) in the 1970s, and their daughter a 16 year old in London. Linking both times and places is a fig tree. Initially I was unsure of a narrative from a tree, but it really does work and helps explains the problems Cyprus has faced in the near past. Along the way the daughter Ada discovers more about her heritage and her parents. I really enjoyed this.

Book #32 “Voyager” by Diana Gabaldon, the third book in the Outlander series. Claire has returned to the 20th century, where she lived with Frank, raised her daughter, Brianna. Following Frank’s death Claire and Brianna visit Scotland, meet Roger (a historian) and discover Jamie survived Culloden. Claire says her farewells to Brianna and returns to Jamie, following many adventures they arrive in America – laying a path to the next volume. At over 1000 pages this was a lot of reading, I will pause before tackling the next book.

Book #33 “One : Pot, Pan, Planet” by Anna Jones. This is a cook book I spotted on Libby, the blurb suggested it was suitable for me: “In this exciting new collection of over 200 simple recipes, Anna Jones limits the pans and simplifies the ingredients for all-in-one dinners that keep things fast and easy.” In fact it is much more than recipes with lots of text about sustainable cooking/food which was interesting. Unfortunately largely the recipes were not “fast and easy”. Many had ingredients it would not be easy for me to source locally, and alternatives were rarely suggested. So while I enjoyed reading the book – it is not a cook book I would want to  to use for cooking.

Book #34 “Great Circle” by Maggie Shipstead. Another book from The Times best seller list via Libby. A story of an attempt to fly around the world (a great circle) via both poles. But the book is much more than that, telling us the story of the pilot and the actor who will play her. Both having lost their parents and bought up by ill-prepared uncles. After a few pages I was hooked – a really great book so well presented, and well written. I am not usually a fan of a book that is described as “beautifully written” as the writing can distract from the plot. But this beautiful writing enhances the plot.

Book #35 “Whistleblower” by Robert Preston. The author of this book is a TV journalist, who is sometimes seen at press briefings asking questions that are long and complicated, as such I wasn’t sure about reading his book. But his style worked well for a thriller set in the 1990s. With fictional politicians, and hidden secrets. The hero of the story is a reporter who digs deep into the “going ons” of the politicians and those around them. The book is well written and gripping.

Book #36 “The President’s Daughter” by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. Another celebrity author – a former president of the USA and a well known thriller writer collaborating to make a gripping story of kidnap and rescue, with some politics thrown in. The plot worked well, but sometimes I found myself skimming the fight scenes.

Book #37 “The Foundling” by Stacey Halls. Set in the 1740s based around a new born baby left at a Foundling hospital. The plot was somewhat predictable, but the book was an easy read, and gave some insight into class divisions at the time.

Books June 2022

Book #27 “The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes” by Anna McPartlin. I had bought this book for my daughter – when she had said I should choose based on what she reads. I picked it up having read an earlier book by the author, and a quick look at the reviews. When my daughter had read it she said it was very sad, what I hadn’t realised was how sad a book can be from the first pages. That said it is very engaging, even though the ending should be suggested from the title.

Book #28 “China Room” by Sunjeev Sahota. A story told across two generations, set in rural Punjab. A young girl in the 1920s married to one of three brothers, but neither she nor her sister-in-laws know which brother each ones husband. Resulting in the heroine falling for the wrong brother. Her great grandson arrives in what was the family home, in 1999 having left a troubled life in England and tries to understand what happened decades before. The complex plot is well presented and kept me engaged.

Book #29 “A Terrible Kindness” by Jo Browning Wroe. The story of a young embalmer and his family of undertakers. Staring with the devastating accident of Aberfan, and the impact of this on his life. Embalming seems an unlikely topic for a novel but it is well presented and I enjoyed reading it although it was very sad in parts. I also know a lot more about what happens to bodies before a funeral.

Book #30 “How to Kill Your Family” by Bella Mackie. This book is currently in the best seller lists, it starts with the heroine in prison for a crime she didn’t commit. It unfolds with her revealing how she has killed members of the affluent family who abandoned her and her mother. There is an unexpected twist at the end, but even without this it kept me turning the pages.

Books May 2022

Book #23 “Still LIfe” by Sarah Winman. Another book I found on Libby after seeing it on a bests seller list. I had read “When God was a Rabbit” by the same author. This was a different book: starting during the Second World War in Tuscany as the Allied troops re-took the area, and the two main characters meet (a soldier and art expert). The story explores their separate lives before and after this encounter, and their eventual re-meeting later in Florence. It was not a fast moving book but it kept me engaged and made me want to re-visit Florence and to eat Italian food.

Book #24 “Dragonfly in Amber” by Diana Gabaldon. I have watched some of the Outlander series on TV, but it is no longer showing on channels we have. So when someone offered some books from the series I decided to read this – which is the 2nd book in the series. It is a sizeable volume and so took a while to read, I enjoyed it although the storyline covered a I had already seen (up to the battle of Culloden). I will read more from the series but I need a change for now.

Book #25 “A House for Mr Biswas” by V.S. Naipaul. The review on Libby suggested this was “one of the twentieth century finest novels” but I could not get into it, there was nothing that pulled me back to reading – so I returned it unfinished.

Book #26 “Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This is currently on best seller lists, and it was an engaging read, with Evelyn Hugo’s life unfolding as she tells her life story to a young journalist.

Books April 2022

Book #17 “Project Hail Mary” by Andy Weir. This book is by the author of “The Martian” – which I didn’t read but I saw the film. As I started the book I thought it may be a re-run of the plot: bloke alone in space.But it was much more. The story is told in two parallel strands “bloke alone in space” and the emerging memories of how he came to be there and what he needs to do to save Earth. I found it a real page turner, I need to find more books like this – I found this via the Goodreads best Sci-Fi/Fantasy list when looking for a Christmas present for my son-in-law.

Book #18 “The Twyford Code” by Janice Hallett. This is currently among the best sellers – so I had put a hold on the Libby copy and it became available just as I finished “Hail Mary”. The book is made up largely of what are meant to be computer generated transcripts of audio files recovered from an iPhone, these were recorded by an East End criminal newly released from prison. The computer generation has mistakes – a main character “Miss Isles” is transcribed as “missiles” throughout, and a lot of the phrases were more phonetic than English. But after a few pages this stopped annoying me and I got wrapped up in the life of the hero, trying to solve the mystery of the missing teacher “Miss Isles” while revealing his history and the circumstances that led to a decade in prison. Another great read.

Book #19 “The Mermaid of Black Conch” by Monique Roffey. I was in two minds about borrowing this book. I feared it may be a bit too “beautifully written” – a phrase which to me means the language is more important than the plot! But the story was there and really well written, the characters were real and it certainly kept me turning the pages as I read it in 3 days (while doing plenty of other stuff).

Book #20 “Lean Fall Stand” by Jon McGregor. This book starts in the Antarctic – when an expedition goes wrong. The story unfolds with a little of the past and a lot of the consequences for the expedition members and their families. A very readable tale, with some very emotive moments.

Book #21 “It Ends with Us” by Colleen Hoover. I borrowed this because it is among the best sellers! It started off as what I thought was chick lit. It then turned darker and the topic of abuse was explored both from the past and the present, at points I skim read some harrowing parts. But I am glad I read it. At the end the author explains how she came to write about this difficult subject and it explains a lot.

Book #22 “an eagle in the Snow” by Michael Morpurgo. I listened to this as an audio-book with my 7 year old grandson travelling to and back from holiday. It was a great story set during the blitz of the second world war, but linking back to the first. It was just right for my grandson.

Books March 2022

Book #12 “The Wall” by John Lancaster. I heard this book positively mentioned on a TV show – I don’t think I would have picked it otherwise, and I would have missed it a brilliant read. It is set in a troubled world where the UK is turned into a fortress protecting it from risen sea levels and “Others” who want the sanctuary of a safe place. There are twists and turns, characters I could believe – so glad I found it.

Book #13 “All my Mothers” by Joanna Glen. The story of a young girl growing up seeking out mother figures. Beautifully told, I really enjoyed this.

Books #14 and #15 My 6 year old granddaughter told me she had two books I would like – not really thinking I said pop them in my bag and I will read them at home. So I ended up with two library books by Pamela Butchart from the Wigglesbottom Primary series: “The Classroom Cat” and “Break-time Bunnies”. Each book was a collection of short stories, told in an amusing fashion and with great illustrations by Becka Moor. It was good to be able to discuss the stories with her, and she now knows not to lend library books as they need to be lent by the library!

Book #16 “The Rose Code” by Kate Quin. I found this book by browsing the list of available books on Libby. It is set in war time Britain and centres round Bletchley Park, and concludes a few years after the war with a hunt for a traitor. There was a lot of real people included in the story ranging from Prince Philip to Alan Turing, and it kept me turning the page. The author is American and in some cases here are errors that I feel should have edited out. People in the UK never have called pavements – sidewalks.

Books February 2022

#8 “Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Anthony Doerr. A brilliant book, with several strands linked through century and locations. I was a little confused to start with at how the story of “Cloud Cuckoo Land” linked the parts but as it developed it became obvious how the manuscript and the translation linked these different strands. I didn’t really want it to end.

#9 “the Shadow Man” by Helen Fields. A thriller with a slightly unusual plot. Some ingredients are common from other thrillers: the troubled detective, his civilian side kick (herself somewhat of a maverick. The victims are an unusual bunch. The whole things is a page turner.

#10 “Cambridge Blue” by Alison Bruce. Our library has a subscription to “Who Else Writes Like…” – it would be better if that site linked to our library’s Libby site, but as it didn’t I looked up one of my favourite author’s: Kate Atkinson, and found some 40 suggestions – then I went to Libby and checked what books I could borrow – there were none for the first two (alphabetical) authors – then I found this book. This was a thriller set in Cambridge – maybe trying to emulate Morse and Oxford. Our young detective (a maths graduate) is quirky and somewhat unorthodox – but finds his way through the case linking historic disappearances – a good read.

#11 “The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot” by Marianne Cronin. I borrowed this book because someone I know has mentioned it and I had seen it on the shelf at a supermarket! It is a moving story of a 17 year-old in hospital with a terminal illness, and the 83 year-old fellow patient she meets via an art class. The book links their combined 100 year and the stories behind the 100 pictures they paint to represent these years. In places joyous and in others very sad. All along the ending was hovering in my mind – “this is not going to end well – it will be very sad” – but that wasn’t how it went… I really loved this book.

I have some paper books in the “to read” pile. I also have a couple on hold in Libby: one says it will be a wait of ~8 weeks, the other says “several months”. I’m not sure at what point the library decides to pay for another copy.

Books in January 2022

So a new year and I’ve started off well with my reading.

Book #1 “The Humans” by Matt Haig. A confused academic or a professor’s body taken over by an alien? A very readable book following an unlikely plot to save humanity.

Book #2 “Klara and the Sun” by Kazu Ishiguro. I have had this book on reserve for a while, and it turned up just as I finished “The Humans”. Klara is an “Artificial Friend” and the story is told from her point of view. Her relationship with the people around her and the Sun unfold as the plot develops. I love the way there are hints of things in the world around that Klara sometimes understands and otherwise maybe misinterprets. I had wondered if this book was going to be very similar to “Machines like me” but both are great books – but very different.

Book #3 “The Fine Art of Invisible Detection” by Robert Goddard. I bought my son this book for Christmas, and was going to wait to read it until he lent it to me. But it was on Te Libby shelf so I read the library copy. An excellent thriller with lots of twists and turns across Japan and the UK.

Book #4 “Save Me a Seat” by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan. This book is really aimed at youngsters (pre-teens?), and a friend mentioned it as a good take on bullying, so I bought it for my daughter as suitable for her class. But recently she said I might enjoy it. An excellent story about the dynamics of children in school and how in some ways it is the same around the world, and how a change of circumstances may change a child from the bully to the bullied. But no fear there is a happy ending.

Book #5 “Utopia Avenue” by David Mitchell. I have enjoyed all David Mitchell’s books but sometimes they are a bit challenging (“Cloud Atlas”). This book was brilliant. It follows a uniques band, formed to mix different genres in 1967. It tells the story linking the lives of the four band members with each chapter linked to a song written by one of the band. there are also some links to characters in other of Mitchell’s books. I hadn’t seen the book mentioned in reviews – so I am glad my friend had and lent me this.

As well as reading the above novels I have read a couple of cookery books from cover to cover so they deserve a mention.

Book #6 “How to Bake Anything Gluten Free” by Becky Excell. I haven’t had any new GF baking books for a while, but a friend recommended this for the pastry recipe. It has a lot of brilliant recipes for the sort of cakes we all normally love, that aren’t available for those who must not eat gluten. I have book marked a few recipes – including Artic Roll. But haven’t baked them yet because I lent it to the GF family – who have made from it!

Book #7 “The Green Roasting Tin” by Rukmini Iyer. I have used lots of the recipes from this authors “Quick Roasting Tin” book and bought this to give some more meat free options. There are lots of lovely recipes: some I have made, and many book marked. I like the way the book does not use “replacement meat”, and I have only seen 1 recipe calling for vegan cheese – half the recipes are vegan – the rest vegetarian.

Books #49 and #50

Book #49 “One by One” by Ruth Ware. This is a thriller somewhat in the style Agatha Christie – with an avalanche cutting off a ski chalet – and characters disappearing/dying. A good page turner.

Book #50 “Feed me Vegan” by Lucy Watson. While I haven’t turned vegan I do want to have a more plant based diet, so I was pleased to get this for Christmas. It is a beautifully produced book with gorgeous pictures. I could have done with a bit less use of replacements products which seem to be vegan “meat” and “cheese” and more use of natural alternatives. But the thing that really made me smile was a recipe for Stuffed Mushrooms – I am of an age to have read Shirley Conran’s “Superwoman” and I am sure she said “life is too short to stuff a mushroom”. That said I have marked a few recipes to try over the next few weeks.