Books I’ve enjoyed 005

Oh, I’ve got some good reads for you today! Here’s another six books which you can snuggle down with and hopefully enjoy too.

One Moonlit Night by Rachel Hore

Rachel Gore’s latest is historical fiction, set during WW2. It is the story of a family and secrets that have been concealed for decades.

It is a nice read, a simple linear story which reveals what happens to Maddie and her two children after they leave London and wait to discover the fate of Philip, their husband and father.

I really like stories set in large ancestral homes in a rural setting. They are always appealing; I find the descriptions of nature restful, there are plenty of secrets hidden within and scope for strained relations and mysteries at the heart of the household.

The Lido by Libby Page

The story of Kate, a 26-year-old local newspaper reporter and Rosemary, an 86 year old lifelong daily swimmer. Kate goes to interview her and find out about the potential closure of the Lido in Brixton, London. This is the start of a blossoming friendship, an unexpectedly good thing for both for different reasons.

As you’d expect The Lido is a story about community, relationships, and the importance of fighting for what you believe is important. It also describes a very touching love story.

This is a light and rather lovely read. It would be a perfect holiday read if you’re off to find some sun. (Just don’t tell me about it. I’ll be envious.)

The Romantic by William Boyd

*Will be published on 6th October (UK)*

A fictional auto-biography which incorporates most of the 1800s as we follow events and relationships in the long life of Cashel Ross. It is the study of a life fully lived, and lived during an extraordinary period of history, filled with innovation and change.

This is truly escapist fiction. It made me really want to travel again, particularly after a few years grounded with the pandemic.

I particularly enjoyed the depiction of the long friendship between Cashel and Ignatz. You find yourself cheering Cashel on as he gets into all sorts of scrapes and commits misdemeanours.

The Romantic is a book where not everything is neatly wrapped up. The loose ends where you wonder what happened to so and so, are just like real life. In particular I was left with a lingering sense of wanting to know what would happen to Frannie…

By the way, if you’ve never read Any Human Heart by William Boyd then I recommend searching out a copy. It’s a 5 star read.

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

‘Few aristocratic English families of the twentieth century enjoyed the glamorous notoriety of the infamous Mitford sisters. Nancy Mitford’s most famous novel, The Pursuit of Love satirizes British aristocracy in the twenties and thirties through the amorous adventures of the Radletts, an exuberantly unconventional family closely modelled on Mitford’s own.

The Radletts of Alconleigh occupy the heights of genteel eccentricity, from terrifying Lord Alconleigh (who, like Mitford’s father, used to hunt his children with bloodhounds when foxes were not available), to his gentle wife, Sadie, their wayward daughter Linda, and the other six lively Radlett children. Mitford’s wickedly funny prose follows these characters through misguided marriages and dramatic love affairs, as the shadow of World War II begins to close in on their rapidly vanishing world.’ From Goodreads

I’ve just reread The Pursuit of Love for probably the third time. The best parts are when the girls are at Alconleigh and especially when they’re altogether again near the end. (I LOVE the Bolter! I remember after I first read this years ago, I got a book about Idina Sackville who was almost certainly the person the character was based upon: The Bolter by Frances Osborne.)

I bought the complete Nancy Mitford collection for a little sum when it was a recent Kindle Daily Deal. I’m planning to read the other two books in the trilogy at some point too.

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

I’ve been waiting for publication day to come around since I read this in July, so I could tell you about it. It’s a five star read. I adore Kate Atkinson’s books and this is one of her best.

An absorbing read, with a multitude of characters. This is London in the hedonistic 1920s, post-war, fizzing with energy, opportunity, money and lots and lots of crime. Nellie Croker is the Queen of the Soho Clubs, she wants to advance the futures of her six children, but her empire is facing multiple threats.

Kate Atkinson’s writing is so gripping, I enjoy it so much that I read slowly, every single word and sentence is savoured, so as to make the book last.
I loved the structure of the book; it basically loops around introducing an event or character and then revisits it, or them, more fully, often from another point of view.

It was a relief that I could read this on my Kindle. There are many characters fleetingly mentioned, when they reappear I feel compelled to look up where they first came into the story. If I was continually flicking back and forth through a paperback it would have taken me weeks to finish!

There’s a little mystery at the end, a will they-won’t-they and a generally satisfying rounding up.

The Rising Tide by Ann Cleeves

I read this in May and have waited a long time to write about this too! It’s just been published. 2022 really is my year of reading Ann Cleeves books. I started another last night, well actually it was the ungodly hour of four o’clock this morning. I might need to start it again, things were hazy after a gin cocktail and red wine, plural.

The Rising Tide is book number ten in the series and this time we find Vera Stanhope investigating a murder on Holy Island off the Northumberland coast. 50 years ago a group of teenagers went there on a camping trip, every five years they get together again for a reunion weekend. This time one of them is found hanged.

It’s an engrossing read which I really didn’t want to put down. I loved the concept of the school friends meeting up for a reunion. It gave so much scope for backstories to explore tensions and past relationships between the group.

I really didn’t know who the murderer was, until Vera worked it out. That’s the mark of an extremely well plotted and executed (!) murder mystery.

I’ll be interested to see if this one gets made into an episode of the TV series.

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There is nothing like snuggling up with a good book on chilly autumn nights. I like to read all year round, but there is definitely something so cosy about going to bed early with a book at this time of year. I find I keep looking at my watch to see if you can go to bed yet. The other night I went up at nine thirty to read. Bliss!

What are you reading at the moment? Any books you’d like to recommend?

Books I’ve enjoyed 003

Midnight Chicken by Ella Risbridger

Part memoir of a specific period in Ella’s life, mostly recipe book. What makes this an ideal book to dip in and out of is the lovely way that she writes about food in the introduction to each recipe. And the recipes sound good too!

Very sad endnote, but I’m glad she’s sounding happier and all is ok on the other side of everything now.

I’m definitely going to make the Midnight Chicken and a few other recipes too.

Kiss Myself Goodbye by Ferdinand Mount

‘Aunt Munca never told the truth about anything. Calling herself after the mouse in a Beatrix Potter story, she was already a figure of mystery during the childhood of her nephew Ferdinand Mount. Half a century later, a series of startling revelations sets him off on a tortuous quest to find out who this extraordinary millionairess really was. What he discovers is shocking and irretrievably sad, involving multiple deceptions, false identities and abandonments. The story leads us from the back streets of Sheffield at the end of the Victorian age to the highest echelons of English society between the wars.’ From GoodReads

This is a rollercoaster of discoveries, and it never stops! I read it while away last weekend by the sea and found it distracted me from paddling, ice cream and rock throwing games. It’s a goodie.

An Island Wedding by Jenny Colgan

A welcome return to the Scottish fictional island of Mure and lots of familiar characters. I enjoyed catching up with Flora, her family and friends. It was a welcome escape from the news and everything going on in the world. (I read an advance copy in March.)

I feel Jenny Colgan is at her best writing this series; it’s not sickly sweet like some of the others and it’s not repeating the same basic premise over and over like the recent Bookshop series. (Girl moves to new area due to unhappy previous situation, has to find a job, ends up selling books, meets a cast of quirky characters, including one or two possible boyfriends. Chooses one, lives happily ever after.) There’s some attempt at reality, grit, hardship and exploration of how characters really feel in the Mure books. These aspects take you on rather an emotional journey and you find you care about them.
The story has really moved on throughout the series, sometimes in unexpected ways, and there is definitely space for more; as this latest book ended with plenty of ends dangling. I’m glad.

(It is odd how from book 1 to book 4 Jan’s maiden name and both her father’s first and last names have been changed. I couldn’t work out why I didn’t recognise Malcy Doherty, head of the local council. Well, that’s because he was Fraser Mathieson in the first book!)

Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen

For Maeve and her friends daily life holds not just the common feelings experienced by all teens: anxiety waiting for exam results, the mad swings of love and lust, boredom with where they grew up, and worry about earning enough money to save for what comes next. Their days are also full of frustration and fear as the threat of violence flares up around them on a daily basis as there’s continual tension between the Catholics and Protestants and resignation about the troubled political situation in the country. Mixed into this mix there is heaps of black humour. It’s hilarious from the beginning and the humour doesn’t let up. This is a story where well-drawn characters are living in dangerous and strained circumstances over the border from the Free State, under British control in Northern Ireland, but it’s not nearly as grim as it sounds.

‘But it’s all these good intentions that’s killing me,’ Maeve said. ‘Everyone’s always asking us to paint pictures or write poems. Ye’ve artists sculpting doves. Teachers sucking the fucken lifeblood outtay us by asking us tae sing “Imagine” – like, no harm, but is that not showing a total lack of imagination?’ ‘Aye,’ Fidelma said. ‘Nobody’s tackling the hard stuff.’

Maeve and her friends then outline how they believe life could be different without segregation, starting the process of integration from the earliest years. The insider knowledge and lived experience of the author shines out, this is not clearly not researched, but drawn from the author’s own life growing up in County Tyrone.

It has to be said (and I know I won’t be the first to say this and certainly not the last) but it is a good companion if you’re watching Derry Girls. Some of what is sketched out in Derry Girls will make much more sense after reading Factory Girls.

Factory Girls is laugh out loud funny, irreverent and touching. I loved it. I know this because I read it slowly and properly, always a good sign as I did not want it to end.

How long until until there is a film or television series? I’m positive the rights will be snapped up. At the end I felt there was also a lot of scope for a follow up book about what Maeve (and friend) do next ….

The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves

Detective Vera Stanhope’s first appearance, this was published in 1999.

Three very different women are living together in an isolated cottage, while undertaking an environmental survey. An apparent suicide, then another death and Vera Stanhope appears to try to piece together what has happened…

The first ever I read in the series was a proof of the tenth book, lucky lucky me. That’s coming out in the autumn. I have to say that’s a fabulous read, if you’re a fan then you’re in for a treat! Then because I enjoyed that so much, I decided to read all of the books in order.

I was already a fan of the tv series, but I think you need to let some time go by to forget details if you watch first, then read. In the TV adaptations motives have often quite changed and it can be disorienting to remember who and why, then find a completely different murderer in the book. That was why I stopped at the first Shetland book; it was too soon after I’d watched that episode. I’ll go back to the books when I’ve finished Vera and have forgotten a lot of what I’ve seen. (By the way: do you know the last series of Shetland has begun to air? The first episode is available on the BBC iplayer now.)

Ann Cleeves writes so well. I love her clear style of writing. I’ve got to look out for the fourth book, I keep checking on Amazon and finding random Kindle deals on different books in the series. I’ve only paid full price for one so far. Huzzah!

The Corset by Laura Purcell

Melodramatic and tense gothic storytelling set in the Victorian era. I started out listening to the audiobook, but I was finding it so anxiety inducing and generally horrible that I decided to read at my own speed (faster! Get past the gory parts!) and power through the e-library book instead.

I underestimated this book. It was a 3 star read all the way. Then, I got to maybe 80% of the way through, maybe more, and realised that it was going to be quite a rollercoaster of an ending. Upgraded to 4/5 stars, don’t underestimate a talented author like Laura Purcell.

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What have you been reading lately? Anything you want to recommend to us all?