Wednesday, 13 January 2021

My year in books (maybe ... )


In school I was 



People might be surprised by 



I will never be 



My life in (full) lockdown was



My fantasy job is



At the end of a long day I need 



I hate 



I wish I had



My family reunions are 



At a party you’d find me with



I’ve never been to 



A happy day includes



The motto I live by



On my bucket list is



In my next life I want to have 



I’ve pinched this idea from a post on Joanne Baird’s terrific blog

She, in turn, was inspired by 746 books


How has your book year been?






Friday, 1 January 2021

Eleven in December

 I read eleven books in December.


The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser

Thea’s been made redundant, and her husband of twenty years has just left her. Salvation comes when she hears that a great-uncle she barely knew has left her his house in a small Scottish town (possibly based on Wigtown ?) – and a large collection of second-hand books.

Cue her relationship with the artistocratic (but reluctantly so) Edward who owns a second-hand bookshop in the town and has a commitment problem.

So far, so like many a romantic plot description … But Jackie Fraser gets deep into the hearts and souls of Thea and Edward, concentrating on them with no sub-plots to speak of, to show a totally believable relationship. I absolutely loved it.


Miss Plum and Miss Penny by Dorothy Evelyn Smith

Dorothy Evelyn Smith is one of those authors who was popular in the 40s and 50s but is now mostly forgotten. Engaging enough, but didn’t inspire me to read more. A pale imitation of Miss Pym.

Alison Penny is forty, single, doesn’t need to work, lives with her family’s old retainer, Ada, who treats her as if she were still a child – and Alison is perfectly happy with that arrangement.

Into her uneventful life comes friendless Miss Plum whom Alison prevents from throwing herself in the pond (or thinks she does) and so finds herself with a guest who outstays her welcome. Miss Plum (her life blighted apparently by her parents thoughtlessly christening her Victoria) eventually departs with the only real beau Alison has ever had but, not to worry, one of Ada’s shepherds pies will make everything all right again.


Home by Marilynne Robinson

Home, along with Gilead and Lila, formed a trilogy of award-winning books (which can be read in any order), set in the small town of Gilead in Iowa in the early 1950s. Then Marilynne Robinson, clearly reluctant to say goodbye to her characters, wrote a fourth, Jack, which came out this year. I succumbed to buying a hardback edition as Blackwell’s were offering (lockdown treat) to send out signed copies. But to refresh my memory of the Boughton family I reread Home first because Jack, chronologically, comes before it.


Jack by Marilynne Robinson

Jack Boughton is possibly fiction’s most heartbreaking character. He's one of the Rev Boughton’s eight children, and despite being much loved by them, he has not seen his family for years. He’s a bum, a petty thief, a drunk, living in a grotty rooming house in St Louis, just after WW2.

He’s clever, he’s musical, he has charm – there are so many times that things could have worked out well for him but his personality can’t allow that; he takes a wrecking ball to anything good.

But when he falls in love with a beautiful and good schoolteacher, Della, and his feelings are reciprocated, the wrecking ball comes from elsewhere – because Della is black and mixed-race relationships were illegal in Missouri (and other American states) at the time.

Like I said, heartbreaking.


Stolen Holiday by Lorna Hill

Needed a break after the intensity of Jack. I know from FB forums that I’m not the only one to have been rereading childhood books over the last few months and I bought a copy of this one through one of these forums. No jacket but that meant it cost £5 and not a ludicrous Marketplace price. Escapism on the wild coast of Northumberland.


The World of Elizabeth Goudge by Sylvia Gower

And so to a biography of Elizabeth Goudge who was a mega-selling author, mostly of historical novels, in her day; one of her books Green Dolphin Country was made into an MGM film. She still has fans as the re-publication of this biography proves.


Hot Winter Nights by Jill Shalvis

Lucas works for Hunt Investigations doing dangerous stuff; Molly is the office manager but wants to do dangerous stuff too. So when one of her elderly neighbours voices concerns about the owner of a nearby Santaland she decides to dress up as an elf and investigate. Their boss orders Lucas to keep an eye on her …


Christmas at Maldington by Anne Stenhouse

A My Weekly Pocket Novel; rightly described on the cover as a ‘great quick read’ and a ‘celebrity drama’. I liked that it was the female character who was the celebrity. Genni Kilpatrick, escaping from her London life which has turned toxic, and hoping for a peaceful time at Maldington House, is asked by local businessman (and stage lighting engineer) Paddy Delford to run the village panto.

Maldington House, in the north of England, was also the setting for A Debt for Rosalie; both available from the DC Thomson shop 0800 904 7260 (UK) or + 44 (0) 1382 575 322 (overseas).


The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

I expected Mr House of Games’ first novel to be good and so it proved. Passed Boxing Day afternoon and evening very nicely, thank you.


Death at Rainbow Cottage by Jo Allen

The fourth in the DCI Jude Satterthwaite mysteries was another page-turner in this series, set in Cumbria. Jude has a series of apparent random killings on his doorstep – and his personal problems are added to by the arrival of a new boss.


A Winter’s Dream by Sophie Claire

A return to the English village of Willowbrook, and to Provence, a delightful combination successfully used in The Forget-me-not Summer and The Christmas Holiday.

This time it’s timid Liberty who is centre stage along with Alex Ricard, the famous, thrill-seeking motorbike champion, who’s in Willowbrook to try to solve a family mystery.

On Liberty’s 30th birthday she resolves to be more open to new opportunities and invitations and to be braver (which includes taking in Alex as a lodger).

As research, author Sophie Claire also embarked on pushing herself out of her comfort zone, climbing a mountain and driving on the ‘other’ side of the road, for example.


A good lesson to learn and a positive and uplifting note on which to end this most challenging of years.