December 2017 Books

December-books

I didn’t actually realise that I hadn’t read anything in December that wasn’t a festive story, but they all were! I was trying to tick off ‘Read five Christmas books’ from my 36 Before 36 list, and with these and Last Christmas in Paris that I finished in November, I’ve ticked it off!

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
This has been on my Christmas reading list for years, but somehow I have just never got around to it. This year, I reserved it at the library nice and early. In age old Poirot fashion, the story involves the murder of a wealthy old man, whose family have convened at their old family home for Christmas. It’s not the best Poirot story that I’ve ever read, but as ever, it involves a convoluted plot, plenty of red herrings and imposters, and a clever reveal. It’s well worth adding to your festive reading list for the future.

Christmas at the Dancing Duck by Daisy James
With a specific festive book goal in mind, I resorted to Kindle bargains when some of my library reservations didn’t arrive in time. This was one of those bargains, though that word suggests a piece of quality work for a small amount of money. I hate being overly negative, but this book was not for me. Granted, you have to expect a certain type of book when you’re dealing with a cover like this, but it was sloppily written, had annoying characters, and a silly conclusion that I saw coming a mile off. It wasn’t for me, sadly!

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Horniak
Christmas books so often revolve around family coming back together, and not getting on, and that’s exactly what happens here. When Olivia returns home from Sierra Leone, where she’s been treating victims of Haag Disease, she has to go into quarantine with her family for a week. This is a family with secrets, who don’t actually seem to enjoy spending too much time together, so the forced proximity is not welcome. We get alternating points of view throughout the novel, so we are able to empathise with the family members, even if I spent most of my time wanting to knock their heads together. This isn’t a criticism however; I don’t have to like a character to find them well-written and engaging.

The Little Christmas Kitchen by Jenny Oliver
I bought this at the same time as Christmas at the Dancing Duck, and after that one failed to set my world on fire, I didn’t hold out great hopes for this one either. But I was pleasantly surprised. It’s the story of two sisters who have grown up mostly separately after the divorce of their parents saw them living apart. Ella has forged a successful career in London and lives well with her upper class husband, while Maddy, the younger sister, has lived in Greece with her mum, living a simple life as a waitress, but dreams of fame as a singer. Through a contrivance of events, the sisters swap places for Christmas, and have to work through their own issues, which thankfully are not all relationship and men related. It’s a predictable ending, and the story won’t stay with me, but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it.

Books in 2017 – 41

36 Before 36 – Read five Christmas books

October & November 2017 Books

October November Books

Death in the Stars by Frances Brody *
I’d probably say that a murder mystery is my favourite type of story, which is very much borne out by my 2017 list – there’s quite a few on there! This is one that I reviewed as part of a blog tour (you can read my full review here); I’ve reviewed the last three Kate Shackleton mysteries, and I’m a huge fan. I think the sense of time is spot on (speaking as someone who didn’t live through the post-war years), and the mysteries always keep me guessing!

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Enger *
This book has been floating around for ages; I follow so many bookish people on Twitter that when a book has a bit of hype around it, I see it mentioned over and over again – this is one such book. It lived up to the hype for me, luckily, despite having a subject matter that it dark and frankly horrifying. Over a decade after leaving grandparents’ vast estate in rural Kansas, Lane returns to look into the disappearance of her cousin Allegra. Being back in the small town brings back memories that Lane has tried to bury, and the narrative splits into two, weaving between Lane’s first summer in Roanoke and the present day, with a bit of old family history thrown in as well. This structure allows the tension to build, so we are left waiting to find out the reason for Lane’s abrupt departure in the past, and what has happened to her cousin in the present. It’s a really great novel, I just loved it.

He by John Connolly
He tells the story of Stan Laurel, famous for his comic partnership with Oliver Hardy. It’s a fictional account, something I had to keep reminding myself of throughout the story. While all the factual major life events are covered – his various marriages, his financial problems, how he came to star in so many films with Hardy – but the rest is a construct. But it’s beautifully imagined, and lends a tragic air to Laurel’s life. It took me a while to get through it, but ultimately I really liked it.

The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler
Having recently renewed my Audible subscription, once a month I find myself trying to find a new audiobook to download. In October, I settled on this one, and then ended up regretting it slightly. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fascinating and well-researched list of 100 authors you may never have heard of. Some were prolific, some were incredibly famous for a short time, but most of whom the average reader probably have heard. My problem wasn’t with the book, nor wit hthe narrator (it was read engagingly by the author), but with the fact that I should have read it, rather than listened to it, as it would have made list making a lot easier!

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng *
This was another book where I read a lot of the hype about the book before I finally got to read the story itself. I really do love it when I have a lot of good things about a book, and then an email lands in my inbox asking if I’d like to be part of a blog tour for it! You can read my review hereLittle Fires Everywhere is a slow story, but not to its detriment. It just takes time to build the characters, and the setting of Shaker Heights, meaning that everything that happens to them is felt on a deep level.

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter *
My iPad is full of books that I have downloaded from Netgalley and not got around to reading or reviewing, so when I was on the Eurostar on my way to Disneyland Paris last month, I decided to delve in and find one. I landed on Bonfire by Krysten Ritter, another book that I have heard good things about, but one that ultimately, I wanted to read because I like Krysten Ritter. I wasn’t disappointed; it’s a great thriller about a corporate cover up that descends into something even more nasty.

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
This has been all over Instagram as a festive read, and though I tried to reserve it at the library, I ended up having to buy it as a Kindle download. It’s a World War I story about a young couple who start off as friends, but through their wartime correspondence begin to fall in love. It’s an epistolary novel, which is one of my favourite types of story, and it’s beautifully written. It reminded me a little of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

Books with an asterisk were provided by publishers.

Books in 2017 – 37

August & September 2017 Books

August-&-September-Books

This is how behind I am with every single blog post that I have been meaning to write – these are the books I read in August and September. It’s now November!

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz*
This is the second Horowitz book I’ve read this year, having previously enjoyed Magpie Murders. This is another unusual set-up; though it’s a work of fiction, Horowitz inserts himself as a character into the story. The character in the story is approached by a former detective, who is working as a consultant on a murder, and wants a book written about it. It may seem gimmicky, but it really worked for me. The murder mystery itself was compelling, and kept me guessing – all in all an enjoyable read!

Tin Man by Sarah Winman
Tin Man is a beautiful book; it took me just a day to finish it , because I found it very hard to put down once I had become immersed in the story. It’s an incredibly moving story about life, love and loss, with characters who became so real to me that they have remained with me even at a distance of months. It’s a captivating story that doesn’t honestly have a huge amount of plot, but weaves a beautiful story all the same.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal*
One of my 35 Before 35 items was to try and read more diversely. I have failed miserably in this; despite trying hard I have let myself down! When this popped up on Netgalley, I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did – trying to read more diversely is about opening my eyes to ideas, cultures, histories and experiences that are different from my own. This was a fun and silly book, but it gave me an insight into the way that British Sikhs live that I didn’t have before.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker
I spotted Pax in Waterstones when I was out shopping one Saturday morning, and it immediately appealed to me. It’s the story of a fox and his boy companion; Peter rescued Pax as a kit, and developed a strong bond, as they had both recently lost their mothers. The book follows them both as they are separated from one another, and trying to find each other again. The writing is beautiful, with the foxes in particuarly being characterised quite wonderfully, and it also includes some lovely illustrations. But I have to confess that I was a little disappointed with the ending.

Wonder Woman Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
I’ve recently renewed my Audible subscription, and this was the first book that I downloaded. I had seen such a lot of hype about this Young Adult book about the D.C. Comics character that I was keen to read it. It tells the story of a young woman from modern day New York, who ends up crashing onto Themyscira, home to the Amazons, and Diana Prince, also known as Wonder Woman. When Diana discovers that Alia is the Warbringer, descended from Helen of Troy and destined to bring about the end of the world, she takes it upon herself to save Alia, therefore saving the world.
It took me a while to get into this, and I wonder if it’s because I was listening rather than reading, or if it did indeed take a while to get going. I ended up really enjoying it though; this may have had something to do with just how much I loved the recent Wonder Woman film, but that notwithstanding, it’s a dynamic story, set partly on Theymyscira, and partly in our world. It’s an exciting and well-written story that I would highly recommend to anyone, regardless of your comic book background.

Books with an asterisk were provided by publishers.

Books in 2017 – 30

Book Blog Tour ~ Death in the Stars by Frances Brody

Eclip9780349414317 (1)se fever has gripped Britain in 1927; in Yorkshire, trusted sleuth Kate Shackleton has been approached by theatre star Selina Fellini to accompany her to a viewing party. Kate, canny and wary as ever, suspects an ulterior motive, and when Selina’s friend and party guest Billy Moffatt dies in mysterious circumstances, Kate can’t help but start investigating.

This is the fourth year in a row that I have been asked to read a Kate Shackleton Mystery for my blog, and I have to say, I do look forward to that email arriving! This is the ninth in the series by Frances Brody, and though I have enjoyed the preceding three mysteries that I have read, there’s no worry here that you have to go back to the start in order to enjoy the newest one.

The mystery itself is self-contained, as always, so the enjoyment comes from simply going along for the ride, and trying to work out who the villain is. And this is a book set in the theatre world of the 1920s, meaning there’s glamour and excitement to be enjoyed, alongside the sense that it won’t be long until these music hall performers find their stars eclipsed by movie stars.

As I’ve noted in previous reviews of Brody’s mysteries, I am always struck by the carefulness with which a woman’s place in society is handled. Kate Shackleton is not a 2017 version of a 1920s woman; she’s a woman of her time – confident and sure in her ability to solve these cases, but conscious of how she is viewed and treated by the men around her.

The mystery itself is a fun one to try and work out; I was none-the-wiser as to the identity of the villain throughout the book until the final reveal. There are plenty of red herrings to contend with, as with all the best mystery novels, and I was well and truly left guessing.

Death in the Stars
First published: 5th October 2017
ISBN: 9780349414317
Piatkus
Review copy provided by publisher

Book Blog Tour ~ The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club: Part One: Diving In by Katherine May

510ss61J8hLIn the gorgeous seaside town of Whitstable, brokenhearted Deb begins to swim each day and gathers a new group of friends around her. But can the magic of sea heal the hurt of the past? Or will family ties drag her underwater again?

I follow Katherine May on Instagram, and there’s no question about it, she lives in a beautiful part of the world. The north coast of Kent is not somewhere I’ve ever visited, but in Diving In, the first part of her new novel, May paints such a vivid picture that it’s easy for me to believe that I have!

The people that come together to make up the Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club all have their own reasons for being there, and in this early instalment, we meet Deb and Maisie. Both have left their respective husbands; Deb has lived her whole life in Whitstable, whereas Maisie has left her high-powered legal job in London to seek refuge by the sea. They become firm friends, though both are vulnerable, and we get an insight into they way they are both adjusting to their new lives.

There are other members of the group; Anne is middle aged but lives at home caring for her elderly mother, Chloe is sixteen and studying for her GCSEs, and Julie has three young children. We don’t get to know so much about these characters in the opening chapters, but as the team band together to fight the threat of a new entertainment complex planned for the beach where they swim, it’s clear that we are going to find out more, and discover what each member brings to the group and the fight.

I’m really looking forward to finding out where this story goes; part 1 is now available for download for just 99p, with part 2 due in November, and the full novel due for release in February.

28775 Whitstable blog tour landscape

The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club: Part One: Diving In by Katherine May
Publication Date: 31st August 2017
Orion
Provided by publisher