Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Reading Roundup - June 2022

 



I love the month of June when the roses are at their best. Their varied shape, colour and fragrance are wonderful and a joy to behold. It is lovely to have the windows open and to have the beautiful aroma creeping in.

It has been a busy month beginning with the Queen's Jubilee celebrations which were lovely. In addition, I have also had a birthday and a canal boat trip in Berkshire.

It has also been a good month for reading and here are the books that I read.

Books I Have Read

Silas Marner by George Eliot - This was my book group read for the month and it was enjoyed by all.

The Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore - I enjoyed reading this. My review is written and I will be uploading it very soon.

The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay by Julie Brooks - I read this as part of the blog tour and was one of my favourites reads this month. You can find my review by clicking here.

While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus - This was such a fun and entertaining read. My review will be up very soon.

Cheat Play Live by Lisa Edwards - This was a fascinating insight into the authors path of self discovery. You can read my review by clicking here.

Hope: A History of the Future by G.G. Kellner - This was an interesting book and you can read my review by clicking here. The author also featured as my guest on the Desert Island Books slot and you can read all about the eight books that she would take to a desert island by clicking here.

A History of Herbalism: Cook Cure Conjure by Emma Kay - I enjoyed reading this non-fiction book very much. My review is written and will be uploaded on Thursday.

A Silent Voice Speaks by Trishna Singh - I learnt so much about Sikhism from reading this book. You can read my review by clicking here.

Maus: 1 & 2 by Art Spiegelman - This was my first venture into graphic novels. My review will be uploaded shortly.

A Midlife Holiday by Cary J. Hansson - The first in an eagerly anticipated trilogy. You can read my review by clicking here.

House Boy by Lorenzo DeStefano - This powerful book was my favourite this month. I can hardly wait to share my review of this fantastic book with you.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett - I literally finished this last night. It was a fantastically original books and I will be writing my review very soon.

Books I Did Not Finish

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman - I borrowed this from the library and it just was not my cup of tea. However, my husband had a read of it and thought it was great.

Murders at the Winterbottom Women's Institute by Gina Kirkham - I really wanted to love this book but it just did not happen for me. I did feature it as one of my Tuesday Teaser slots which you can read here if you would like to know more about the book.

Books I am Partway Through

The Redeemer by Victoria Goldman

Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie

Monday, 27 June 2022

The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay by Julie Brooks - #BookReview #BlogTour

 

Rose scrambled down the bank in a storm of sand, arms flailing and legs protesting. Funny how her legs didn't work as well as they had once. Inside she still felt like the girl who had landed on these shores forty years ago, yet her body resembled an old woman's more each year. Sometimes, catching a flicker reflected in a window, she didn't recognise herself.

Reaching level ground, she shook the sand from her shoes, before settling the canvas hold-all on her shoulder and looking up to see the bay spread before her like a half-moon of glittering blue, Cape Bridgewater jutting into the ocean to the west with rugged Cape Nelson and its lighthouse rising to the east. 

***

England, 1919: Rose and Ivy board a ship bound for Australia.

One is travelling there to marry a man she has never met.

One is destined never to arrive.

Australia, 2016: Amongst her late-grandmother's possessions, Molly uncovers a photograph of two girls dressed in First World War nurses' uniforms, labelled 'Rose and Ivy 1917', and a letter from her grandmother, asking her to find out what happened to her own mother, Rose, who disappeared in the 1960s.

Compelled to carry out her grandmother's last wish, Molly embarks on a journey to England to unravel the mystery of the two girls whose photograph promised they'd be 'together forever' . . .

***

I love a dual time line novel. Partly, because I am fascinated by the connection that the present has with the past, and also because I think it is exceptionally difficult to pull off successfully. Julie Brooks has achieved this incredibly well, and I enjoyed reading every word of this book very much.

Furthermore, it is a book of secrets and is full of twists and turns, many of which I had not anticipated. It made for an interesting and intriguing reading experience as little by little the secrets of the past are revealed.

The characters were all well portrayed, and as an amateur genealogist myself, I could identify with Molly who was attempting to join the dots between herself and her ancestors. Ivy, whose story was set in the earlier time frame was a wonderful character and I thoroughly enjoyed reading how the author developed her character.

This is Ms. Brooks debut historical fiction novel for adults and I am looking forward to reading more of her work. Her next novel, The Keepsake, is due for release in the UK in January 2023.

I wholeheartedly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. I would love to hear your thoughts if you read it.

ISBN: 978 1472279163

Publisher: Headline Review

Formats: e-book, audio, paperback and hardback

No. of Pages: 400 (paperback)

About the Author:

Julie Brooks was born in Brisbane, Australia, but has lived most of her life in Melbourne. She taught English and Drama in secondary schools before working as an editor of children’s magazines. She has been a full-time author since 1999 and is the author of several young adult novels as well as children’s fiction and non-fiction. The Secrets of Bridgewater Bay is her first novel writing as Julie Brooks.  




(author photo and bio. info. courtesy of the publisher
ARC courtesy NetGalley)

Friday, 24 June 2022

Desert Island Books by G. G. Kellner

 


Hello and welcome back to Desert Island Books on the blog. I am thrilled to have G. G. Kellner joining us this month.

You may remember that I reviewed Gayle's book, Hope: A History of the Future, a couple of weeks ago. If you would like to read my review you can do so by clicking here. You can also find some interesting information all about Gayle herself.

The newly released book Hope, A History of the Future imagines a peaceful, just, verdant future world that could arise. It is a novel based on scientific projections and historical precedence. 


Gayle, how do you think you would manage life on a desert island?

It’s not often that being a nerdy introvert is handy, but I think I’d love being on a desert island with eight of my favourite books! I actually live on an island in real life and love it. Of course, I’m not here entirely alone. This is a fun question for me too because some of the characters in my book Hope, A History of the Future get stranded on a deserted island! 

If the imaginary island had a good swimming hole, a hammock in the shade, and a few fruit trees I’d settle in happily with my books for quite a while. My nerdy side is about to be exposed. 


The History of the World by J.M. Roberts &Odd Arne Westad

At 1260 pages with five dozen maps History of the World is large enough to double as a pup-tent. I am currently rereading this for the second time (it took me a year and half the first time.) It is a fascinating account of what we know of the beginnings of humankind from prehistory 600,000 years ago to the present. It is organised in such a way that the reader is taken on a spiralling path around and around the world stopping at each continent and civilisation as the authors wind up and around the globe chronologically moving forward in time. The first-time I read this book it knit together history for me like a patchwork quilt. I began to comprehend how historical events and civilisations are deeply intertwined. At four inches thick it will also make a good weapon or a decent pillow. 

Encyclopedias Brittanica

First you must know, I have trouble with insomnia sometimes. I love reading old encyclopedias just before bed or if I wake in the night. The internet has pretty well made encyclopedias obsolete but there is no better way for me to pass an hour or two than filling my head with nearly useless and certainly out of date information like the population of Nebraska in 1950 (1,327,000; I wouldn’t have guessed that high). Or I can wonder around the topography of Italy, climbing the hills of Tuscany in my mind. I especially like the set of encyclopedias I inherited from my grandmother. I can find out the major exports of long forgotten countries and the names of little remembered now dead presidents. Nothing seems quite as serious through the filter of time. And when I’m done reading them all I can make them into the deck of a raft. 


A Dictionary

Yeah, a big one. One that can double as a footstool. My current toe stubber is The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language third edition by Houghton Mifflin. I really like it because it has little pictures. Like the one I’m looking at right now of two flamenco dancers intertwined mid-step. On the opposite page is a long-legged flamingo bird (before I looked, I thought these were the same words!) When I’m not learning new words, I can stand on top of it and look far out to sea or reach that perfectly ripe avocado. If a fellow castaway was to wash up, we would be able to play Scrabble with a reliable word referee.  




Love & Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality by Edward Frenkel

I was over 50 years old when I learned that I loved math. I like it so much, if I live long enough, I may be tempted to get a degree in mathematics someday. So, if I was stuck on a desert island I’d wake up and read this book in the morning right after a refreshing swim. The inner workings and mysteries of math and the world around us is so much more interesting than most teachers in school ever let you know.  





Hope: A History of the Future & A Blank Book

Books five and six would have to be a copy of my own book Hope, A History of the Future and a blank book. I could probably spend years reworking parts that I currently think could be better and if nothing else it would make a good fire starter. In the blank book, I could write the sequel to Hope, A History of the Future. I’d have to choose my words carefully. With no word processors, I’d likely be writing it with a homemade charcoal pencil like the character Mia in my story.  



Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

I haven’t read this in years, but it is on the top of my “read again” list. I remember being mesmerised by his descriptions of nature and the small things which I’m guessing by month four or five on a desert island would begin to take on a whole new significance. 






Thirst by Mary Oliver

I could easily just bring poetry books and forget everything else! So, for my last selection I would have to bring a book from one of my favourite poets Mary Oliver. I think I’d bring Thirst. It seems a fitting title for a companion book on a desert island. How many things one can thirst for besides water? Quite a few I bet! In this book is one of my all-time favourite poems, The Uses of Sorrow, which I included (with special permission from Mary Oliver’s estate) in Hope, A History of the Future. It is very short. Like a kaon, it could be something to think about whilst sitting in the sand day after day,


“A friend once gave me a box full of darkness 
It took me years to understand 
that this too was a gift” -Mary Oliver 

*

Now that I've made this list I don’t think one lifetime is enough for me on a desert island! I’m going to go find my swimming suit and start building a raft. 

I love the way that many of your choices have a practical element too.  Thank you, Gayle, for sharing your choices.

If you are an author and would be interested in taking part, then please get in touch by emailing me at leftontheshelf1@gmail.com.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

In the Heart of Hidden Things by Kit Whitfield - #CoverLove

 Hello and welcome to this week's cover love feature. And isn't this cover absolutely gorgeous? It is being published today and I suspect that the cover alone will have many of us reaching for it.

I am looking forward to reading this. Watch this space. I hope to be back with a review very soon.



Everyone knows that if you fall afoul of the People, you must travel the miles to Gyrford, where uncounted generations of fairy-smiths have protected the county with cold iron, good counsel and unvarnished opinions about your common sense.

But shielding the weak from the strong can make enemies. Ephraim Brady has money and power, and the bitter will to hurt those who cross him. And if he can’t touch elder farrier Jedediah Smith, he can harm those the Smiths care about. 

The Smiths care about Tobias Ware, born on a night when the blazing fey dog Black Hal roared past the Wares' gate. Tobias doesn't understand the language or laws of men, and he can't keep away from the Bellame woods, where trespass is a hanging offence. If Toby is to survive, he needs protection. 

It should be a manageable job. Jedediah Smith has a head on his shoulders, and so too (mostly) does his son Matthew. Only Matthew's son John has turned out a little… uncommon. But he means well. 

It wasn’t his fault the bramble bush put on a berry-head and started taking offence. Or that Tobias upset it. But John’s not yet learned that if you follow the things other folk don’t see, they might drag those you love into the path of ruin.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Cheat Play Live by Lisa Edwards - #BookReview - #BlogTour

 

If you're spending your honeymoon in a motorhome, driving around New Zealand, New Brighton Beach is a good place to start. It's not the most beautiful beach, but it's not far from Christchurch and you can reset your body clock after a long-haul flight. It's the perfect place to plan the weeks ahead in a local pub and wake up on your first morning for a romantic walk on the long beach and a coffee sitting in the dunes.

That is, of course, unless you've married the wrong man.

There were no rose petals or champagne breakfasts on our honeymoon. Instead, the two of us woke up in a motorhome bed, feeling wretched. Graham knew he'd gone too far and put his arm around my shoulders as we crested the dunes that backed the beach. He never did that normally - he said it made his arm hurt.

***

Lisa is looking for love, freedom and absolution on the beaches of the world. Grieving for the loss of her parents, married to the wrong man and stuck in a toxic work situation, she has become increasingly dependent on alcohol to numb her pain. After using a dating site for married people, she decides to leave her husband, believing that the grass is greener on the other side. But no one is waiting in the wings to claim her – only younger men looking for an older-woman experience.

Lisa roams the beaches of the world looking for love but in Goa, she discovers yoga, a sober life and a tribe of inspirational women who show her a new path to self-love and independence, breaking the lock on the secret she's been keeping inside her since she was a little girl.

So when The Most Handsome Man in Goa walks into her life, Lisa must decide if her new-found solo freedom is worth holding onto.

***

I enjoyed reading this book and getting to know Lisa very much. She relates her story in a warts 'n' all manner, which in itself, illustrates her bravery and honesty.

She breaks her story down into three parts, represented by its title. This made for an easy to read book which is both an engaging and interesting memoir. Lisa is a fascinating woman who has accomplished many things through her bravery and courage to face up to life and therefore achieve.

I loved reading about her travels and who wouldn't feel a little jealous as she describes the beautiful beaches upon which she walked? Each description was an emotive experience for her. She was doing much more than having a holiday. For Lisa, she was discovering more about herself than merely enjoying her surroundings.

I think that there are aspects of her story that many women will be able to relate to. I am full of admiration for her ability to remove herself from a marriage and career that the rest of the world would interpret as successful.

This candid tale is uplifting in the way that she lays her path to self-discovery out for all to see. She is inspirational and something I have taken away from reading this is the importance that we should all place on being true to ourselves rather than living up to the expectations placed upon us.

Bravo Lisa, for telling your story and helping women realise that we do not have to live up to the expectations of others all the time.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about strong women, travel and self-realisation.

ISBN: 978 1739934019

Publisher: Redwood Tree Publishing

Formats: e-book, hardback and paperback

No. of Pages: 252 (paperback)

About the Author:

Lisa Edwards is a former publisher who is now a freelance writer, editor, agent and yoga teacher. She grew up in North Wales, but has lived mostly in southeast England. She lives in Worthing, West Sussex, where she lives alone and walks by the sea every day. She splits her time between the UK and India. 

Monday, 20 June 2022

Murders at the Winterbottom Women's Institute by Gina Kirkham - #bookextract #blogtour

 


The Blurb

It’s a quiet English village—except for one crazed murderer—in this delightful romp by the author of the Constable Mavis Upton series.

Librarian Prunella Pearce has left heartbreak behind to start a new life in the village of Winterbottom, where there’s little social life to be had aside from the meetings of The Winterbottom Women’s Institute at the parish hall.

But a bit of excitement ensues when the group is about to elect a new president—and the nominees for the position begin dropping like flies. One is found facedown in a lemon drizzle cake, stabbed with a crochet needle. Another nearly dies spectacularly in the revolving doors of a Harrogate hotel. When Pru and her friend Bree agree to do some undercover snooping to help the police, little do they know that one of the Winterbottom women is hiding a scandalous secret . . .

Extract

The whiteness crunched underfoot, a sound that Maisie found quite comforting. She quickly took her eyes from the ground, raised her head and tilted her chin to look ahead. It momentarily hurt, making her blink rapidly. The whiteness had no end. It stretched from the carefully crafted stone edges of Magdalen House, across the vast gardens, over the boundary hedges and then draped itself on the bare branches of the dense trees in Winterbottom Woods.

She could almost imagine her life being completely white.

No darkness.

No fear.

No desperation.

Just white.

She bent down, her small fingers curled around the icy cold snow, patting it into a little ball. Once it was the right shape and size she took aim. Bringing her arm back, she tested her own flexibility before launching it at a squirrel that had until that moment been sitting unaware of her on the fence, a small acorn between its paws. The snowball missed, but it was enough to startle it. The grey flash disappeared over the hedge, leaving the top of its foraged nut peeping out from the snow.

She wasn’t sure why she had done that. Now she was alone again. It was only a squirrel, but better some company than none at all. She glanced back to look at the windows of Magdalen House. They were the eyes of her world.

Sometimes they allowed her to see out.

Sometimes they looked out to see her.

Like today.

Today they were watching her.

She turned her back, not wanting to see their disapproval, not wanting to feel their wrath.

***

Friday, 17 June 2022

A Midlife Holiday by Cary J Hansson - #BookReview

 

"Stevie Nicks is a Legend!"

"What?" Daisy, who sat nearest the door and whose job it should have been to say this coded warning, looked up, eyes blanks as buttons.

"Stevie Nicks," Helen hissed again, "is a legend!" She already had her coat on, ready to go home, and her arms were filled with a bouquet of M&S Finest Seasonal Blooms, a bottle of Bucks Fizz and a box of Honey Dust Kissable Body Powder. Still she managed to jab her elbow in the direction of the corridor.

The penny dropped. Daisy grabbed her mug, making a show of drinking from it. So did Anne. And Tina. Then, along with Helen, they all turned and beamed at Dr Ross, who was now standing in the doorway having seemingly forgotten why she was there.

***

She wanted a change. But will a girls' trip to the Mediterranean recapture her joy?

Helen Winters worries the walls are closing in. With her children grown and her selfish husband absent on her fiftieth birthday, she regrets not taking the exciting paths she dreamed about in her youth. So when a well-meaning gift reveals a depressing image of her future, she takes a leap of faith and jets off to Cyprus with two lifelong friends.

Basking in the glorious sunshine and crystal-blue waters while enjoying the attention of handsome men, Helen starts to feel truly alive. But her best friend isn't in Cyprus for the sunshine, and when Helen learns the true reason, tensions threaten their lifelong bond and she fears nothing will ever be the same again.

Can she shake off years of disappointment and claim well-deserved happiness?

***

Three long established best friends, Helen, Caro and Kay know and understand each other really well. However, when they all go on a girls holiday to Cyprus, things take an unusual turn.  They discover things about each other that surprises them all, and the author dealt with this exceptionally well.

In the characters of all three women we can see aspects that we can either identify with, or know someone a bit like them. It is this ability to be able to identify with them that made this both an engaging and worthwhile book to read.

It is very much a character led novel which is driven ahead with excellent dialogue as well as wonderful descriptions. I would challenge anyone who, having read this, does not want to immediately jump on a plane and sit on a Cyprus beach. 

The author excellently describes women of middle age and the feeling that there are still so many things that they each wanted to achieve, but have not been able to due to various responsibilities they have toward careers and families.

This is a highly engaging book which I enjoyed from start to finish and strongly recommend it. I am also delighted to discover that this is the first in a planned trilogy. A Midlife Baby is due to be published in November of this year and I can hardly wait.

ISBN: 978 9198758733

Publisher: Hansson Publishing

Format: e-book and paperback

No. of Pages: 318 (paperback)


About the Author:

Cary grew up in the UK, but now lives in Sweden. After a varied career that saw her tap-dancing in a pantomime and selling towels on shopping channels, she settled down to write contemporary fiction. She swims in the Baltic year round, stands on her head once a day and enjoys Merlot over Shiraz.







(author photo courtesy of the authors Twitter page and ARC courtesy of NetGalley)