The Dinner by Herman Koch – read for a for book group. I found it quite compelling, if a little upsetting. I would recommend it. 4/5
Sanctuary by Judy Nunn. When I heard Judy Nunn talk about this book at a recent author talk, I knew I had to read it. An absolute page-turner and I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out what was going to happen to all the beautiful characters that Judy had introduced me to as part of the story. Very timely story and puts a face to refugees. 4/5
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton – What’s not to love about a book with family secrets, inheritance, kidnapping and mysterious family ties. A homage to the gothic novel, this story is a page-turner. 4/5
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman – I took this book away on holidays last year to read as it is based around the Masada tragedy – but it was a very difficult book to get into, so it sat, barely started, for months after I got home. I picked it up again this recently determined to read this book that I knew I should love. 2/5
The French Perfumer by Amanda Hampson – Full of loveable characters, this delightful story is a hidden gem. Set in London and then the French Riviera of the post-war period of the 1950s, be charmed by the over-the-top caricatures woven through a great little story based around Iris, who had led a very sheltered life but left her stable job to take on a mysterious secretarial role with a perfumer. Good to take on holidays. Listen to the author here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYgTdGfwoh8 4/5
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood – A surprisingly engaging novel about an orderly, logical, prickly, and middle aged feminist, Susan, who has to face some big challenges after the death of her mother. Told from Susan’s point of view, the reader nonetheless can see through Susan’s bravado and watch her “bloom”. 4/5
The Dress by Sophie Nicholls (eAudiobook) – This story felt a little like ‘Chocolat’ by Joanna Harris, where mother and daughter have been wanderers and finally try to make a home in a new town. Instead of chocolate and food, substitute the vintage clothing and the everyday magic of beautiful garments and friendship. 3/5
Stepdog by Nicole Galland (eAudiobook) – A funny romantic comedy that begins with being fired, finding love, lots of wagging tails, dog-napping, and an elusive Green Card. 4/5
The boyfriend list by E. Lockhart (ebook) – Book 1 of the Ruby Oliver Novels series. Follows the life of Ruby (aged 15) as she goes through more than her fair share of teenage angst, and with the help of a psychologist looks back on the disaster of her social life and strives for a way forward. An eye-opener for parents, a cautionary tale for teens, and a surprisingly engaging read. 3.5/5
A Wrinkle in Time : the graphic novel by Madeleine L’engle – not my cup of tea at all and I will not be joining my book group in rushing to see the film. I chose to read this for book group as a graphic novel as I thought it might help. It didn’t. I hated this book and scored it 1/5 accordingly.
Don’t let go by Michel Bussi – another crime novel by French novelist Michel Bussi who I was introduced to by a Library user. This one is set on the French island of Reunion Island. The wife/mother in a family holidaying on the island goes missing at the hotel. There’s plenty of evidence of a crime and plenty of suspects, but no body. Bussi always tells a compelling, clever story with a good twist at the end. Scored 4/5
Elizabeth’s Rival by Nicola Tallis – recommended in a podcast I listen to, this is a biography of Lettice Knollys who was a cousin and, for around 20 years, a favourite female courtier of Elizabeth I. In 1578 Lettice married Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester in a secret ceremony. The queen was beyond furious. Marrying without the queen’s approval was a crime in itself but to marry the queen’s favourite was almost suicidal. Lettice somehow survived but was banished from the queen’s presence for ever. This was well written and right up my alley and I scored it 4/5
Armadillo by William Boyd – I’ve read a few William Boyd novels now and I love him. This one has insurance loss adjuster Lorimer Black investigating the apparent suicide of a client. The unfolding investigation is interspersed with notes Lorimer makes about the sleep study he is taking part in and which serves to give the reader Lorimer’s back story. A bit different. Perhaps not as good as the previous William Boyd’s I have read, Restless and Sweet Caress. Scored 3.5/5
The Suitcase Baby by Tanya Bretherton – True crime account of the infanticide of a baby who washed up in a suitcase in Mosman in 1923. The mother was found quite soon and she and her accomplice went on trial amongst a tidal wave of media interest. Tanya Bretherton not only documents the police case and the trial but puts the infanticide in context. In one chapter, Ms Bretherton gives a list of all the infants found dead in a short period. The social reasons for babies being murdered is also explored. It makes distressing but fascinating reading. I scored this book 4/5
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner – a book group read that I wasn’t looking forward to but ended up loving. Crossing to Safety documents the friendship between Larry and Sally Morgan and their rich friends Sid and Charity Lang from its beginnings in the 1930s to the 1970s when Charity is dying and has summoned everyone to their holiday home for her farewell birthday. There is no plot per se to this story which is something I usually cannot stand but Stegner writes so beautifully, elegantly, simply that I found myself transported. No wonder it’s an American classic. Scored 4/5
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – the novelised story of real life character Lale Sokolov who as a Jewish prisoner in the notorious concentration camp had to tattoo the numbers on other prisoners. In one intake he meets Gita and they fall in love. I’m afraid I found myself underwhelmed by this book. It might be that it’s a topic I’ve read a little about so there was nothing new for me. It might be that I didn’t really warm to Lale and found the love story a little cloying. I scored it 3/5
The Last Train by Sue Lawrence – a mystery story with two time lines, one in 1890 set against the backdrop of the Tay Bridge Disaster in Dundee, Scotland and one in modern day Dundee. Two disappearances in two different times leave two related women grieving and confused. While the modern day woman, Fiona Craig, investigates the disappearance of her partner Pete, she finds there is a family secret and similar story for her kinswoman, Ann Craig. Scored 3.5/5
A Time of Love and Tartan by Alexander McCall Smith – one of the 44 Scotland Street series which I love not only for the wonderful, quirky characters, but for their ability to transport me back to the tenement buildings I inhabited as a student in Edinburgh. Happy days! Scored 4/5
The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan – the ‘u’ in Ruin has an acute over it and the word in Irish means ‘secret’. This is a mystery novel set in Eire and the first in a series to feature Cormac Reilly. In The Ruin, Reilly finds himself reinvestigating a murder from 20 odd years ago when the body of the first victim’s son turns up drowned and an apparent suicide. The plot was quite complex and I didn’t always follow what was going on but enjoyed it for the most part. Scored 3.5/5
The Chalk Man by C J Tudor – not quite as scary as the blurb on the cover might suggest and less horror than mystery but enjoyable enough to score 3.5/5. As children, Eddie and his pals left chalk messages for each other but someone else starts leaving chalk men for the boys and things get really sinister when the town bully is killed. As adults the ‘boys’ start getting the messages again and things are rekindled.
So I’ve now got two on the go – The Dinner by Herman Koch which is a book group read that I’m enjoying more than I thought I would and Walking Wounded by Sheila Llwellyn about a man sent to a military psychiatric hospital with what we would now call PTSD just after WWII. I’m loving it so far.
The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman (sci fi) – this one does well in the Book Riot Read Harder challenge for me. With the one book I could theoretically tick off:
*A book with a cover you hate
*A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author
*A romance novel by or about a person of color (at a stretch. There is some semblance of dystopian romance, but it isn’t “a romance”.)
If there was a category for book with its own made up language I would be on fire. Like A Clockwork Orange this book has its own skewed version of English, and it requires dedication to get into the rhythm. It is also long. It is set in a future USA where a disease kills most people by the age of twenty, so the characters are mostly children or teenagers – but don’t let that put you off. My interest waxed and waned, but on the whole it was an impressive novel. 4/5
Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides (short stories) – You couldn’t call Mr Eugenides prolific by any means. This is a collection of previously published short stories in lieu of a new novel I suppose. Ok, but I found I wasn’t in the mood for short stories. 3/5
Anaesthesia: The gift of Oblivion by Kate Cole Adams – with an anaesthetist in the family I have already heard more than I need to know, but it is a fascinating topic. The author spends a bit too much time on her own hang ups, but there is still a lot of fascinating insight into the mysteries of being sort of dead and sort of alive at the same time. Just pray that you don’t remember what happens when you go under, like some of the subjects in the book. 3.5/5
Kedi (DVD documentary)– if you like cats at all this is pure delight. A documentary that follows several tame but ownerless cats in Istanbul, it doesn’t stray (ha ha) too far into the dark side of life on the streets for urban animals. It may even make you feel ever so slightly less misanthropic, if you are little inclined that way. And a quick plug for our video service Beamafilm – it is available to stream now. 6/5
The inaugural meeting of the Fairvale book club by Sophie Green – I can highly recommend one NOT to waste your time reading….not even as engaging as a Mills & Boon.
1 ~ I hated it / Don’t bother / It felt more like homework than reading for pleasure
2 ~ I didn’t like it / Not for me but worth trying / This book needed something different to make me like it
3 ~ I liked it / Recommended / This book was good. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad.
4 ~ I really liked it / One of the best books I’ve read this year / I’m glad I read it
5 ~ I loved it / One of the best books I’ve ever read / I will probably read it again