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Vanessa’s 2020 Reads

What have you read in 2020? Post your list here and update it as you go along! (One thread per member, please.)
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Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4259
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favourite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

November

Post by Vanessa » Sun December 6th, 2020, 5:04 pm

Here’s my list for November:

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor
A fabulous tale set in Yorkshire in the 1960s with interludes in previous decades. It’s mainly told through the eyes of the wonderful Evie who is such a lovable and delightful character. She’s sixteen and a half years old and lives with her father, Arthur, and his ‘housekeeper’, Christine, on a farm. Christine has dubious intentions towards Arthur and Evie is worried that she may become her (evil?) stepmother. This is a beautifully written, highly engaging and humorous story with some laugh out loud moments. There is a whole cast of fascinating and vibrant characters and what an eclectic, vividly depicted bunch they are! The author did a great job of bringing them alive on the page for me. It’s also a nostalgic read and harks back, in my opinion, to a gentler era. It was such a joy to read and I was so sad to turn the last page. I absolutely loved it! I was easily transported to Evie’s world and will miss her dreadfully. I, for one, cannot wait for the sequel!

A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland
Set in 1316 mainly in the Priory of St Mary on Dartmoor where there is a magical well which is supposed to have healing properties. A plague of frogs occurs and the water from the well turns to blood, along with the sudden appearance of a blind boy. It would appear dark forces are afoot. I was a little disappointed, having read and enjoyed other books by Karen Maitland. It dragged somewhat for me. I found it confusing at times and quite dreary.

The Tobacconist’s Wife by AnneMarie Brear
Set in Yorkshire during the Victorian era, cobbler’s daughter, Thea, marries tobacconist Ernie Goodson in the hope of a comfortable life. However, Ernie isn’t the man Thea thought he was as he has some secrets concerning dodgy dealings. Everything changes with the arrival of the new shop owner and cabinet maker next door. This is an enjoyable, easy read with some likeable characters and quite a dastardly villain! Even though it is a lighthearted romance and also a little predictable at times, there is an underlying thread of menace and not a small amount of violence. I thought it was nicely written, well paced and just a great all round story. If you enjoy a good old fashioned saga, you’ll love this one.

The Windsor Knot by S J Bennett
A cosy style murder mystery with the Queen playing detective. When a guest is found murdered in his room after a dinner party at Windsor Castle, Her Majesty and her sidekick/secretary, Rozie, decide to investigate the matter with interesting results. I quite enjoyed this tale although I did find the pace somewhat slow. It dragged a little for me in the middle section. I thought it was confusing at times, too, but on the other hand found it different and quite original. I liked the little glimpses into the life of the Queen, albeit fictional. She was well described and I think her personality came over quite clearly, as did Prince Philip’s sense of humour. I think a lot of research must’ve gone into the writing of this book. The story harks back to the golden era of crime and, bearing this in mind, the Queen can only be described as Miss Marple with a crown! An easy and entertaining little read which should appeal to those who enjoy an old fashioned thriller with a hint of pomp and glory. 3.5⭐️

The Book of Echoes by Rosanna Amaka
The Book of Echoes is a powerful and compelling story narrated in part by the spirit of an African slave who was murdered 200 years ago. In the present day a boy from Brixton and a girl from Lagos journey towards each other as they try to escape their pasts. I thoroughly enjoyed this emotional and meaningful tale. It has some wonderful, realistic characters as well as being beautifully and vividly written. It contains themes of slavery and racial discrimination, these themes resonating throughout time, as the title suggests. It’s a thought provoking story, very pertinent to today’s world, a tale of adversity, hardship and survival, but ultimately it’s a story of hope and forgiveness. I can’t recommend it enough!

Kill a Stranger by Simon Kernick
Well, what a roller coaster of a story! A husband comes home to find the dead body of a woman in his bed and his wife missing. What happens next sends the reader on a frenzied and exciting journey with surprises at every turn and, of course, nobody is as they seem and nobody can be trusted. This is such a fun and entertaining read. It’s full of twists and turns, the odd red herring and plenty of cliffhangers. I felt like I’d fallen down the rabbit hole at times, my mind was in such a whirl! It’s nearly as mad as Wonderland itself. You definitely have to suspend belief. I read this book via the Pigeonhole app and I looked forward to receiving each stave every day. I was eager to turn the pages so that I could find out how it was all going to end! If you enjoy fast paced and action packed thrillers, you’ll love this one. Just sit back, try to disengage brain (otherwise it will hurt) and enjoy the ride.

Death Comes But Twice by David Field
The second in the Carlyle & West Victorian mysteries. This one begins with the suspicious death of a man who, according to the records, had supposedly been hanged a year previously. How could this be? As the bodies mount up it’s up to Dr Carlyle and local clergyman, Matthew West, to get to the bottom of the matter. Having read the first book in the series, Interviewing the Dead, I was looking forward to reading the second one. I can confirm it’s another fun, entertaining and easy read combining fact with fiction. It touches on women’s roles in politics and the science of fingerprinting. Carlyle and West make a great intrepid detective duo and it has a good plot line which kept me turning the pages. I like that there is a human interest story running alongside the mystery, too - it makes the story feel a little more real. I would have no hesitation in recommending this series to historical fiction/thriller fans.

Audio

The Beauty of Broken Things by Victoria Connolly
When Luke Hansard’s wife, Helen, dies in a train crash, he contacts one of her online friends, Orla Kendrick, who lives in a remote castle. Orla is hiding from her past but loves collecting broken things, perhaps as broken as she is. Can Luke put the pieces together again? This is an enjoyable, easy read if a little predictable. It’s quite a sad tale and covers themes such as loss and grief. I did think it went into the twilight zone a little. I liked the slightly ambiguous ending so I could use my imagination. An enjoyable listen.

Vanessa
Cr: Twist
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4259
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favourite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

December

Post by Vanessa » Fri January 8th, 2021, 11:04 pm

Here’s my list for December:

If I Can’t Have You by Charlotte Levin
Constance Little works in a surgery where she develops a dangerous infatuation with one of the doctors. So much so that he inhabits her mind every waking minute and sometimes during her dreams. She ends up on an ever decreasing spiral into the darkness of stalking and voyeurism. Wonderfully written and vividly told, this is just a fabulous story of loneliness, love and obsession. Constance is such a fascinating and worrying character. She is the first person narrator of the tale and takes the reader on quite a rollercoaster of a journey. You never know what she is going to do next! Some of it will have you cringing at her actions and at other times it will bring a tear to your eye. I was totally gripped. I read this via the Pigeonhole app and couldn’t wait to receive each stave to read on. An excellent debut which I can highly recommend. I look forward to reading more of Charlotte Levin’s work.

Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth
This story is set during a heatwave. Rachel is a teacher and Lily, one of the pupils at her school, goes missing. Lily is a friend of Mia, Rachel’s daughter. As the temperature soars, tensions rise and the search for Lily intensifies. Although I thought this was a beautifully written book, I found the pace too slow for my liking. Rachel’s constant internalisation of her thoughts with her imagination running riot irritated me. It’s very atmospheric and the descriptions of the oppressive heat are very vivid, so much so, it was making me break out in a sweat reading it! However, not much happens within the pages themselves and I was left feeling a little disappointed.

When I Was You by Amber Garza
Lonely Kelly Medina discovers that there is a young woman in her neighbourhood with the same name as her. When she decides to make contact with friendship in mind, all is not as it seems and it ends in disaster. This is a dark, twisted and gripping psychological thriller. I couldn’t quite work out what was and what wasn’t real. Was it all in the imagination of the main character? I was compelled to keep turning the pages to find out. It’s well written and cleverly plotted. There are plenty of twists and turns, some of which had me on the edge of my seat whilst others had me cringing behind a cushion. The ending took me by surprise, I wasn’t expecting it at all. If you enjoy thrillers which slowly draw you in, gradually revealing secrets, and which keep you on your toes throughout trying to puzzle it out, you’ll love this one.

The Other Mrs Miller by Allison M Dickson
Phoebe Miller doesn’t like socialising and spends most of her time alone. She notices the recurrent appearance of a car outside her house and believes she is being spied on. Then, a new family move in to the house opposite. Do they have an ulterior motive for taking up residence near Phoebe? This story starts off well, it’s quite intriguing. Then it gets a little too far fetched, very implausible in fact. None of the characters are particularly likeable, either. However, it is entertaining, fast paced and easy to read. I was eager to find out who the villain of the piece was. I had my suspicions and after going round and round in circles, I was proved correct in the end. An enjoyable and fun psychological thriller, if a tad incredulous. 3.5⭐️

Twist of Thread by Christine Evans
The second in the Lancashire Cotton saga set during the 1860s mostly in Gorbydale, a mill town, and the American South. Jessie and Robert Overdale have married, Honora Darwen is studying medicine in New York and Dolly Tate is wanting a better life for her son and herself and heads for Louisiana with her new husband. This is a great addition to the series. It was lovely meeting up with some of the characters from the first book, Song of the Shuttle, to find out how they’re getting on. This story complements the first one but can also be read as a stand alone. It’s an interesting and enjoyable tale about some likeable and feisty women, Dolly being my favourite as she’s a little mischievous! It contains a bit of all sorts, from family drama, to adventure, to murder with a sprinkling of romance, and it’s written in an easy to read and engaging style. Highly recommended for historical fiction saga fans.

The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse
Set in Carcassonne and Toulouse during the 16thC, this is the story of Minou and Piet, one a Catholic and the other a Huguenot. Minou works in her father’s bookshop and one day she receives the mysterious message ‘She knows that you live’. Piet is on a secret mission involving a religious artefact. A chance encounter with one another changes the course of both their lives. This is a wonderful piece of historical fiction. It’s well researched and beautifully written. The French war between the religions is vividly and powerfully portrayed. There are some strong and courageous characters. All these factors combine to make a gripping, exciting and magnificent tale of love, hate, betrayal. family secrets and adventure. I loved it!

Lost and Found by Tom Winter
I thought this was going to have a festive theme but it doesn’t really! The book cover is a little misleading. Not that I didn’t enjoy it as I did. It’s a story about two lonely people - Carol who is planning on leaving her husband and Albert who lives with his cat. Albert is a post office employee and one day discovers a letter Carol has written to no-one in particular about her troubles. I thought it was a mostly entertaining and amusing tale with a couple of serious threads running through it. It’s quite sad in places, too. All in all an enjoyable and humorous story which, even if it wasn’t festive, was a light and easy read over the Christmas season.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

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