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 004

The Green Roasting Tin by Rukmini Lyer

My current favourite recipe book which I’m using to bring some fresh meat-free meals to the table. Last week I made the courgettes roasted with olives, feta and tomato bake. It was delicious both hot and cold, though perhaps not for someone who is advised to use eat a low-salt diet. You could maybe miss out the olives and cut it down that way, but it wouldn’t be quite the same. Tomorrow when I’m doing my groceries order I’ll choose another recipe to make this week.

The Diet Myth by Tim Spector

Tim trained in medicine and rose to the position of consultant rheumatologist before turning to genetic epidemiology, the study of genetic factors in health and disease. Now he is professor of genetic epidemiology and director of the TwinsUK registry at Kings College London. He is a specialist in twin study, genetics, epigenetics and microbiome, and diet. (Wikipedia) You may also recognise his name and his face from the Zoe website. He’s very active on Instagram and Twitter too.

The Diet Myth is an exploration and explanation of why most diets fail, why despite, the multi million pound diet industry, and so much advice about what to eat, and what to avoid, people are still gaining weight and populations are becoming fatter every decade. This is a fascinating read.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim

Published a hundred years ago, in 1922, this story is about a couple of women who are unsatisfied in their marriages and leading pretty dreary lives. They decide to rent a small castle on the Italian Riviera and gather two others to help pay for it during a summer holiday, without their husbands. It’s a lovely read, with some very touching and humorous lines. Apparently at the time it did wonders to advertise and bring tourism to the area. This paperback was a surprise sent by a friend when I was unwell, along with Midnight Chicken which I wrote about in my last books post. Friends who post books they think you’ll enjoy and cheer you up are treasures!

Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves

The second in the Vera series. This time she’s investigating a crime which happened ten years before. New evidence has come to light, which throws doubt on the original verdict. I found this absolutely masterful; the characterisation, setting and plotting. It could be any one of the community, it’s impossible to guess the ending.

The Woman on the Island by Ann Cleeves

If you have any interest in reading the Vera series then you MUST go to Amazon next and select this because it’s currently FREE! (Even if you don’t have a Kindle, you can get the free Kindle app on your phone or tablet and read the short story.) We learn the motivation for Vera becoming a detective during this short backstory. As she goes on a day trip to Holy Island with her father Hector. There’s an excerpt at the end for the new Vera book (number ten) The Rising Tide, which is set on the same island. This should whet your appetite for when it comes out on 1st September (sorry, I’m not sure of international publication dates) next week. I read of a proof copy, back in May, and it’s a 5 star read.

The Night Ship by Jess Kidd

I’ve been looking forward to telling you about this one. The Night Ship is structured with a dual time period, which tells the stories of two nine year old children Mayken and Gil more than 300 years apart. The author weaves fiction around fact to tell the story of Mayken, who is a newly motherless child en route to the care of her father. She is travelling with her nursemaid Imke on an East India Company ship The Batavia. The ship is undertaking the long and hazardous sea voyage from Holland to Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies as it was (Jakarta in Indonesia as it is now called.) It is carrying goods and 200 passengers. Gil is also newly motherless and has been sent to his Grandfather Joss to spend the fishing season on a remote island off the west coast of Australia. Their story and developing relationship is rather touching as both adjust to each other and become closer.

Mayken is a fabulous character, she and Imke definitely have all the best lines. Mayken’s story made me both laugh and cry. She is a character who will stay with me.

Jess Kidd paces this atmospheric story perfectly, as usual in her writing there is folklore and supernatural elements. The tension gradually ramps up until the denouement for both children. I enjoyed the parallels between the two and found myself thinking a lot about cultural norms and what is thought of as endearing, or alternatively as weird; particularly from a gendered point of view.

From now on I shall be keeping witch’s stones / hagstones that I find on the beach and trying to see what has already been and what is to come! This is another 5 star read. If any of you have not yet read any of Jess Kidd’s books I urge you to find them. She’s such a talented and entertaining writer. I cannot wait to see what she writes next.

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There are some absolutely cracking books coming out in the autumn, I’ve read a fair few advance reader copies this year and I’m looking forward to writing about them, when I get the publishing dates.

We’ve had a good summer here, albeit far too dry, but now I’m looking forward to autumn. This is usual for me at this point in the holidays. I’m beginning to anticipate apple picking, soup making, cooking stews, walking through crunchy leaves and having cosy evenings crafting (crossed fingers) with lots more good books to curl up with on the sofa.

Want to share what you’re currently reading? Any book recommendations for us?

Books I’ve enjoyed 002

A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon

Linda is on the face of it not a very interesting character; she is living the kind of life that millions of people live day by day. Going to work, plodding along, cooking uninspired dinners and pushing the hoover around the house. There is no real communication, or any sense of a spark of connection between Linda and Terry, her husband.

There is plenty of black humour and characters who are all too familiar in this book. From Linda’s mother to nose-in-everything neighbour Malcolm. What happens after the girls on the estate go missing and turn up one by one is very well plotted. I don’t want to say anything more about it all, as I’d hate to spoil it for other readers.

The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans

Fantastic!

Twisty turny, with a slow-building atmosphere of menace. I had so many questions and thoughts about what might happen when I was not reading, always a good sign of a compelling story.

This novel is deftly plotted, with leaps back and forth in time and to completely different settings. 1989 was interesting, the references took me straight back to my teens. Researching (or just remembering?) that period must have been fun.

The characterisation is solid; because despite a large cast I was never confused about who was who.

It also has to be said (because I bet I’m not the only one) that any book which is set within a large country house and grounds gets my vote too. Woodland, a pool and a view of the sea too? Tick, tick, tick!

My heart was beating so hard by the end. Loved it. This is a book I’ve already recommended to many friends. 5 *****

Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander

An engrossing read as we find out exactly what has driven Meredith to stay in her house for over three years, and what happened to cause her to become alienated from her family. Along the way she makes two new friends who have some issues of their own.

Meredith, Alone is in the same genre as Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and A Man Called Ove. All are linear stories following characters who have deeply personal issues to resolve, as they form new relationships along the way and change through the course of the story.

Meredith is a really sympathetic character, so proactive in her self-care and very likeable, while supportive of others. I imagine the dishes Meredith makes and the items she bakes will inspire. It certainly makes for a cosy read. The food, the cups of tea and the cat. Perfect.

There is one aspect of the story that could have been much darker, which could have changed the path of the story as it moved forward in the present time, but the author chose not to go there.

Breadsong by Kitty and Al Tait

What a fabulous book! It’s warm hearted, honest and incredibly positive. You feel there is nothing the family won’t overcome, because there’s no such thing as giving up. There’s a problem, then there’s research, teamwork and problem solving. Breadsong is a very uplifting read. Yes, I found myself welling up at times, but then I was laughing out loud and I’m pretty sure there were a few shouted “Hurrays!” And, of course, there is bread. A lot of bread.

I’ve been making bread every week since 2014 when I read The Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan, a warm and cosy novel which really inspired me to make my own. After all I’d grown up eating homemade bread, I knew how much better it was than shop bought. My Mum would come home on a Friday night after working hard all week and make a batch of loaves. I’d wait the minimum amount of time allowed to cut a slice or two. I always spread the crust with butter and honey. For the last 4 years I’ve been baking sourdough, also inspired by some of the bakers Kitty mentions. (Happy 4th Birthday Marve the Marvellous starter!) So, I completely and utterly understand the appeal of dough and baking. It is therapeutic and apart from ending with something hugely tasty to eat, you feel a huge sense of achievement.

I can’t wait to try some of the recipes, in Breadsong. I didn’t realise that there would be so many! HURRAY!

Also I should go and visit the bakery sometime soon. Who can resist a visit after seeing all the beautiful photographs in the book? (And on their wonderful Instagram account.)

Appetite by Ed Balls

Part memoir, part cookbook, this is a very engaging read. I found the descriptions of Ed Ball’s years working in government very interesting. I also loved snippets about Ed’s family life both then and now. Ed always seems likeable on TV and radio appearances and comes across favourably in this well-written book.

I’ve saved some of the recipes to try: including the baked chocolate mousse, the custard (I’ve never actually made custard from scratch, so when it comes around to apple picking time I might make a crumble and serve it with homemade custard, instead of my usual extra thick double cream. My husband will be pleased) the soups and Cajun beans, which I plan to cook this week.

I noted how the finer details of recipes were sometimes lacking, for instance: how big a shoulder of pork for the bbq recipe? Around how many bananas might be required for the stated 425g? Smaller shops do not have scales to weigh produce and it is useful to know in advance. Do you remove the garlic from their skins and eat in the chicken soup, or discard when serving? When making the Yorkshire puddings the instructions state to divide the batter equally, but it does not say around how many portions the roast beef and puddings serves, so it would be rather a guessing game the first time. We tend to take specifics for granted when reading the cookbooks of experienced food writers. None of these are insurmountable problems, but some recipes could be tweaked a little.

Ed’s observations of the Sundays of his youth with the rituals and the patterns of roast lunch, football, the BBC serial and teatime were interesting as he states it was a true day of rest. I’m certain that his Mum didn’t get much rest! However I enjoyed the nostalgia of reading his recalling those quieter, far less commercial Sundays.

I quite often look up unfamiliar words when reading, my favourite in this book was policy wonk! I didn’t think it for a minute it would be in any dictionary. I thought it was probably political slang. Wrong!

I hope there are more books from Ed as I genuinely enjoyed reading his stories and would definitely read another of his books, if it was in a similar vein.

This is not a Pity Memoir by Abi Morgan

Heartwrenching, hopeful, a testament to love, family and loyalty. There is also humour, a lot of it bleak, but it lightens the reading of what is a devastating story.

Very best wishes to Abi, Jacob and their families.

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And there you go, there’s a booklist for your holiday reading, or for lounging about on sunny afternoons (or for cosy winter nights if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere.)

What about you, have you read any corkers lately?