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Vanessa’s 2021 Reads

What have you read in 2021? Post your list here and update it as you go along! (One thread per member, please.)
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Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4305
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 » Fri December 3rd, 2021, 2:37 pm

Here’s my list for November:

Sisters at War by Ros Rendle
This is the first book in the Strong Family Historical sagas and tells the tale of the lives and loves of three sisters before and during WW1. I enjoyed this story. I liked how it was told with some straightforward narrative and the inclusion of letters written from the Front. It seemed well researched and gave a good insight into life at home as well as at war. I liked the characters, particularly Rose and Delphi. They were realistic and believable but at the same time totally different from each other. An engaging and interesting read and I look forward to reading the next in the series.


Underneath the Christmas Tree by Heidi Swain
After the death of her father, Liza leaves their tree plantation business in the capable hands of his business partner, David. When David decides to retire, Liza returns to Wynter’s Trees to temporarily help out as she proposes to sell her share of the business to David’s son, Ned. Can David and Ned change her mind and put the glitter back in her Christmasses? A lovely slice of festive fizz! Wynter’s Trees is definitely a winter wonderland. A Christmas tree plantation with a difference. It’s a fabulous idea in a beautiful setting - I could just visualise it and would love to visit. I like the style of writing, it flows well and is easy to read. It’s my first Chrismassy read of the year and it’s got me in the mood for the coming season quite nicely. With some sparkling characters and a glistening backdrop, this is sure to light up your Christmas! An enjoyable, lighthearted read just right for the time of year.


The Beach by Alex Garland
A young backpacker travels to Thailand and there he hears of a secret beach from a suicidal man. He makes friends with a French couple and together they decide to find it. I read this with my f2f book group. Sadly it wasn’t my cup of tea. Although I think it’s well written and even easy to read, I couldn’t engage with it. The main character is quite self centred and I wasn’t that keen on the rest of the characters, either. I found the ending a bit of a damp squib. It was a ‘then I woke up and found out it was all a dream” type of ending. It just sort of fizzled out. I was glad when I’d finished it. Perhaps the film is better?


An Italian Scandal by Cecil Cameron
Beginning in the 1859, Carina Temple has been sent to stay with her late mother’s family in Italy to prevent a scandal occurring in London. She arrives in the midst of the Italian Reunification in the time of the Bourbons and Giuseppe Garibaldi, leader of the rebels and patriots. She meets one Captain Ben Mavrone and, my goodness, don’t the sparks fly! This is their story. I enjoyed this romantic adventure story. Combining historical fact with fiction, it is a bit of what I would call a swashbuckling bodice ripper! It’s quite old fashioned in it’s telling but well written nevertheless. It reminds me a little of Laurie McBain’s and Kathleen Woodiwiss’s books. I don’t know much about Italy’s history so I found the historical aspect very interesting. I also found it exciting, quite the page turner in fact. I liked the characters, I thought they were well described. All in all a lovely piece of escapism and an excellent debut. I am looking forward to seeing what the author comes up with next!


Caduceus by Sarah England
The second book in the Beth Harper Supernatural Thrillers series. Beth and Jeannie have escaped Scarsdale Hall and found themselves in the seaside town of Crewe hoping for a quieter life. Of course this is not to be and spooky goings on of the very dark kind have followed them in their tracks. I thought this was quite an exciting sequel to Masquerade, book one in the series. It was great to meet up with Beth and her spirit guides again for another creepy and sinister adventure. I liked the added interest of Joe the detective and hopefully we will encounter him again in future episodes. I still found it a little confusing at times and wasn’t always sure what was going on but I just went with the flow and enjoyed it nevertheless. It would seem that Beth’s troubles are not at an end so I look forward to how the story is taken forward in the next book!


Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult
Art Specialist Diana OToole has her life on track, a good job, a doctor for a boyfriend and plans for the future. She is hoping Finn will propose on their scheduled trip to the Galapagos. The pandemic strikes and Finn persuades Diana to take the holiday of a lifetime by herself. But when she gets there she finds the hotel shut down and flights back home cancelled, leaving her no other option than to explore the seemingly idyllic paradise. However, nothing is as it seems. I enjoyed this story and found it very thought provoking. I particularly liked the first half of the book which was set in the Galapagos. I loved the setting and the descriptions of the scenery. I like the interactions between the characters, especially Diana and Gabriel, an ex tour guide. I wasn’t so keen on the parts of the book set in New York during the pandemic, as some of the scenes are quite harrowing and I like to be taken away somewhere else other than reality in my reading at the moment. It’s a beautifully written story and there is a twist in the tale which took me by surprise. It really emphasises that we should be grateful for what we have and take pleasure in the little things. An engaging read which challenges your beliefs. “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans” - I know this to be true.


Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver
Set in Edwardian Sussex, Maud lives in a manor house in the Fens with her tyrranical father. When he discovers a painting, later named The Doom, in the graveyard of their local church, it seems to unleash all sorts of terrible things. Are they real or just part of a lurid imagination? Can Maud find out the truth? I very much enjoyed this atmospheric story. There is a good sense of time and place and the feeling of pervading menace is very strong. It’s definitely a gothic thriller type of tale rather than a traditional ghost story. It wasn’t what I was expecting when I first picked the book up, but nevertheless it kept me gripped throughout. It’s creepy and sinister as well as being quite sad in parts. It’s beautifully written and I liked the epistolary sections. They made it feel all more real somehow. The characters really came alive for me and the descriptions of the Fens are very vivid. If I didn’t know better, I would think Wake’s End and it’s Fens really existed! An engaging, eerie and engrossing read.
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: 4305
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 7th, 2022, 7:31 pm

Here’s my list for December:

The Visitors by Caroline Scott
It’s 1923 and nature newspaper columnist come housekeeper Esme Nicholls is spending the summer in Cornwall at her employer’s brother’s house, along with his eccentric friends, all former soldiers. As time goes on, Esme gets to know the men and begins to get involved in their lives. Then a new visitor arrives who turns Esme’s world upside down. This is a lovely, gentle story about hope and friendship. There’s a whole cast of fantastically bohemian and realistic characters. It’s beautifully written with some vividly written descriptions. It’s not a fast paced read, it’s more of a walk through the trials and tribulations of life after a war, how people cope and how they try to find happiness in the little things. This is wonderfully depicted via the addition of a nature newspaper column and wartime diary extracts. I was captivated by this story from beginning to end and I shall miss these characters enormously. I loved it!


The Forgotten Maid by Jane Cable
The first book in a new series, the Cornish Echoes Dual Timeline Mysteries. 2015: Anna is the Project Manager for a new glamping site at Porthnevek but the locals aren’t too happy about it and try to stand in her way. 1815: Thérèse is a French army seamstress who is found clutching a tree during the Battle of Waterloo by an English painter. She soon becomes a lady’s maid. Trying to find news of her missing brother, she meets a local smuggler who says he can help her but can she trust him? This is a very enjoyable story set in a stunning part of the world . The two timelines complement each other beautifully, there are certain subtle parallels between them. The characters are well written and very believable. It perfectly combines historical fact with fiction and makes for a gripping tale, although I think I preferred the more modern one, Anna’s story, but really they are both equally riveting. An engaging read which had me eagerly turning the pages. It should appeal to dual timeline historical fiction fans, especially those who enjoy a hint of the supernatural. I look forward to the next book in the series!


The Healer’s Betrayal by Helen Pryke
Morgana Innocenti is born on 1 November 1599 in Italy on cursed ground in the Grove and is one of a long line of healers. As secrets are revealed within the family, Morgana finds herself with no option other than to get married to protect their name. Rumours start to emerge about the arrival of English witch hunters and Morgana soon finds herself in fear of her daughter’s life as well as her own. The Healer’s Betrayal is the fourth book in the Healer series. I haven’t read the previous three books but can confirm that this one can be read as a stand alone. However, as I enjoyed The Healer’s Betrayal I do intend to read the others! It’s a well written story and had me gripped from beginning to end. I loved the idea of the Grove with its healing plants and dragonflies. It definitely had a mystical quality. It’s also quite harrowing at times and can be difficult to read but the dragonflies are never far away, they are a symbol of hope in this story. With its interesting characters and imaginative plot line, it drew me in and kept my attention throughout. A captivating and moving read.


Highland Yuletide Wish by Kristin Gleeson
It’s nearing the Yuletide at Glen Strae and Abby McGregor’s husband, Iain, has gone to collect his brother, or so he says as Abby is not so sure he’s telling the truth. When she finds out that he’s actually gone to help her parents during a dangerous situation, Abby takes matters into her own hands. Highland Yuletide Wish is a novella in the Highland Ballad series. This is a lovely festive read and it gives a good insight into some of the characters, the setting and the era. The plot is intriguing enough to tempt the reader to want to read more in the series. I’ve only read Highland Lioness which I enjoyed so this novella has tempted me to read other books in the series.


The Murder Mile by Lesley McEvoy
Forensic psychologist Jo McCready is visiting Martha Scott, a patient at Westwood Park Psychiatric Hospital, and whilst Martha is under hypnosis Jo unlocks the alter ego of Jack the Ripper who thanks her for allowing him to start killing again. Consequently, Martha is murdered and grisly Ripper copycat killings start to occur. It’s a race against time for Jo to discover who the murderer really is. This is a gripping, rollercoaster of a thriller. It kept me hooked from beginning to end. It’s fast paced, the action never letting up, with plenty of twists and turns and the odd red herring. The murders are quite gruesome so not it’s for the faint hearted. I really enjoyed it, especially as the hero of the hour is a Boxer dog called Harvey! I’ve already downloaded book two in the series. Highly recommended.


I Know What You’ve Done by Dorothy Koomson
A gripping psychological thriller set on a street in Brighton. One of the residents is the victim of attempted murder. At the time she had a diary in her possession in which she noted the neighbours’ transgressions or indiscretions, said diary now being in the hands of another resident. Consequently all the other neighbours are suspects and are eager to find the journal. I found this book a real page turner. There are lots of twists and turns with the odd red herring thrown in. I loved trying to get into the psyche of the neighbours on Acacia Villas, all of whom have their murky secrets. The reader is slowly introduced to this eclectic group of characters with tiny morsels of information being revealed gradually. It’s really quite the jigsaw putting the pieces together correctly to build the bigger picture. It’s a well written thriller which will have you riveted right up until the end. Highly recommended.
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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