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Vanessa’s 2022 Reads

What have you read this year? Post your list here and update it as you go along! (One thread per member, please.)
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Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4290
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

Vanessa’s 2022 Reads

Post by Vanessa » Thu February 3rd, 2022, 9:40 am

Here’s my list for January:

The Christmas Invitation by Trisha Ashley
Meg is commissioned by a well known novelist to paint her portrait. She is invited to stay at her house in the Lancashire countryside in the run up to Christmas. The house is an old Gothic Victorian place and lends itself well to the season. An old flame turns up and things get a little tense. This is an entertaining festive read, a little mad at times but the characters are quirky and colourful. It’s easy to read and heartwarming. Just right for the time of year!



Little Wing by Freya North
Set in Colchester, Camden and the Isle of Harris, this is is a story of two strangely connected families. It’s told by way of Nell and Dougie, a couple of misplaced people, beginning in 1969 and spanning nearly four decades. It’s beautifully and lyrically written. The vivid descriptions of Harris really made me want to visit, they are so evocative and atmospheric. It’s an emotional read and really tugs at your heartstrings. It’s a tale about love, friendship, acceptance, forgiveness and finding out where you belong in the world. I have one negative viewpoint - although I really enjoyed Little Wing, for me it did drag a little in the middle but, ultimately, it is heartwarming and poignant. It’s the first time I’ve read a book by Freya North for quite a few years so it was lovely to revisit this author’s writing via the Pigeonhole app. I look forward to seeing what else she has in store!


The Key in the Lock by Beth Underdown
A dual timeframe gothic mystery set in Cornwall. In 1888 seven year old William is found dead under a bed at Polneath as the result of a fire. In 1918 Ivy is mourning the death of her son, Tim, whilst at the same time being haunted by events of the past. Can she piece together and discover what really happened all those years ago? This is an eerie and beautifully written story. It is something of a slow burner but I found it very compelling even so. It really draws you in to its murky depths! It’s quite a dark tale and very atmospheric with some sinister overtones. It has a good sense of time and place. There is a great cast of fascinating characters, not always particularly likeable. It reminded me a little of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca at times. Always a winner for me! An intriguing and absorbing mystery which had me gripped until the last page.


Finding Edith Pinsent by Hazel Ward
This is the second book in the Netta’s World series. Netta has been asked to go through Edith Pinsent’s diaries and belongings, Edith being the previous owner of Netta’s house. All sorts of secrets are uncovered whilst, at the same time, Netta is dealing with all the worries and challenges in her own life. I loved Finding Netta Wilde so I was looking forward to reading Finding Edith Pinsent. It didn’t disappoint! I thought it was a fabulous read. It’s full of likeable characters and it was great to revisit some I’d already met. Edith’s diaries take the reader back to the days of WWII which I thought was very realistically written and gave a good insight into the world at that time. The two timelines sometimes resonate with each other for Netta, making her think about her own life. It’s quite an emotional story full of secrets and the trials and tribulations of being human. Well, that‘s life! So, open your arms, close your eyes and taste the sky as Edith says. A wonderful, inspiring and captivating read.


Romance at the Sweet Shop of Second Chances by Hannah Lynn
The second in the Holly Berry Sweet Shop series. Holly has settled back in to the village of Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds and her sweet shop has really taken off like space dust! Her life seems to be set on course with romance in the offing, but will a blast from the past thwart the path to true love? I enjoyed meeting up with Holly and her friends again. They are a fun and likeable cast of characters. This is an entertaining sequel to the first book, The Sweet Shop of Second Chances, a sweet little tale without being too sugar coated. It has a frosting of realism in the form of the importance of friendship and a sprinkling of romance in the form of Ben, the bank manager. Well written, easy and engaging, it’s well worth the read especially whilst devouring a bag of pick’n’mix!


The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett
This tale begins with a children’s storybook written by a famous banned author. It’s found on a bus by Stephen Smith who begins to believe that it holds secret messages and puzzles, all connected to the disappearance of his remedial English teacher and the mystery of the Twyford Code. Will Stephen crack the code and solve the puzzle of Miss Isle’s exodus? I thought this book was brilliant, it’s so very clever. I loved the way it’s written and narrated in the form of audio files. It’s very different, unique. There are nods to Enid Blyton, Douglas Adams, William Holding and Kit Williams. I never knew quite what was going on and it had my head in a whirl trying to work the code out. It definitely takes you on a wild goose chase and a thrilling adventure. A gripping and exhilarating read. Sit back and enjoy the ride!


The Couple at the Table by Sophie Hannah
A murder mystery set in a luxury holiday resort where all the guests are suspects and all the guests could not possibly have committed the crime! Whilst I quite enjoyed this story, at the same time I thought it was a little long winded and somewhat contrived. In fact, it became quite bizarre. There are nods to Agatha Christie and I enjoyed this aspect of it - interviewing the suspects and then getting them altogether at the end to reveal the murderer. It just took a long time to get there and the plot kept going off at tangents! I don’t think this is one of Sophie Hannah’s better books, but it’s entertaining nevertheless.


The Maid by Nita Prose
Molly Gray is a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel and she cleans the guests’ bedrooms to perfection. One day Molly finds one of the guests dead in his room and she is accused of his murder. What will Molly do next? What a wonderful book! I really loved Molly as a character. She’s quirky, endearing and definitely a little off centre. “We are all the same in our different ways.” There is a great cast of peripheral characters, too. I was gripped from the very beginning and found it difficult to put down, a real page turner. It’s well written with an engaging plot - it’s what I would describe as a cosy mystery. An excellent debut which I can highly recommend. Entertaining and fun. “Everything will be okay at the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” Life definitely does have a way of working itself out!
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: 4290
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

February

Post by Vanessa » Thu March 3rd, 2022, 10:42 pm

Here’s my list for February:

House of Footsteps by Mathew West
Simon Christie travels to Thistlecrook House on the Scottish Borders to catalogue an intriguing art collection belonging to the Mordrake family. But all is not what it seems….. This is an atmospheric and creepy gothic style story. I enjoyed the style of writing, it’s perfect for the type of book it is. The story draws you in slowly. I really didn’t know what was going on and I’m not that sure I knew by the conclusion either! Even so, I found it very compelling and was eager to turn the pages. There are hints of the supernatural as well as black magic, all adding to the suspense. A great all round eerie tale set in a spooky old house. What’s not to like?

The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley
An alternative world, time travelling adventure set in London (but not as you know it) among other places (like a lighthouse) during and after the Napoleonic wars. I enjoyed this story but I did get quite confused at times. It needs some concentration as it took quite a bit of working out. Nevertheless I found it quite gripping and thought it was cleverly written. There were some great characters - I particularly liked Kite, he was fascinating and I thought his name suited him to a tee. There were also some surprises along the way and I loved how it all came together at the end. If you enjoy a brain frazzler of a novel containing fantasy as well as historical fiction, this one is for you! Give it a whirl! It definitely takes you on a magical mystery tour even if it does leave you with a headache.

The Silver Wolf by J C Harvey
A gripping adventure story set during the Thirty Years War in 17thC Europe. Jean Fiskado vows to avenge his father’s death and his journey takes him from France to Amsterdam and then on to the battlefields of Germany. I thought this was a fabulous read. It’s a real rollercoaster of a ride. It’s fast paced and beautifully written with some wonderful and vibrant characters. I especially liked Jack/Jag/Jacques. Historical fact is combined with fiction to create a fantastic and extraordinary story. The descriptions are very vivid and the attention to detail is impressive. I could picture it easily in my mind, it has a very good sense of time and place. It’s very much a page turner, action packed. I was gripped from beginning to end and I can’t recommend it enough! I believe The Silver Wolf is the first in a planned trilogy so I’m looking forward very much to book two. I can’t wait to find out what happens to Jack Fiskardo next!

Corrag by Susan Fletcher
Corrag has been imprisoned, accused of witchcraft, for her involvement in the Glencoe Massacre of 1692. She is visited by Charles Leslie, a propagandist and Jacobite. She tells him her story and he begins to see her in a different light. I enjoyed this story although the writing didn’t always flow for me. A certain amount of concentration is needed. It’s quite a sad tale but an interesting one. It gives a good insight into the Glencoe Massacre, an event which I didn’t know much about. It’s very vivid and descriptive, giving a good sense of time and place. Corrag is a fascinating character, quite otherworldly and I was interested to discover she actually existed and was and is venerated by the Highland people even today. She was quite a brave lady.

Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
An exciting and romantic adventure story set in Cornwall about a gentlewoman and a pirate. Daphne du Maurier is one of my favourite authors and I just love her writing. This story is written very vividly, so much so I could imagine myself there on the banks of Frenchman’s Creek or on a boat sailing away down the river into sea. It’s a great tale to take you away from the trials and tribulations of life. You can’t beat a swashbuckling pirate adventure story!
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: 4290
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

March

Post by Vanessa » Tue April 5th, 2022, 7:38 pm

Here’s my list for March:

The Warring Heart by Ros Rendle
The second in the Strong Family series set during WWI, The Warring Heart tells the tale of Pretoria Redfern and Nathaniel Moor, both of whom are disillusioned with love so enter a marriage of convenience with each other. This is an enjoyable and well written romantic saga story. The narrative flows pleasingly and kept my attention throughout. I’ve read the first book in the series, Sisters at War, and love that I had the opportunity to revisit some of the delightful characters inhabiting the Strong family world. It was great to find out how they were getting on! The historical side of the story is well described and the attention to detail is excellent without being too graphic, especially with regards to the war sections. If you enjoy a gentle and easy read set in a bygone era, you’ll love this one!

Reputation by Sarah Vaughan
MP Emma Webster is the subject of trolling and online abuse. However, when her daughter, Flora, starts to be bullied at school and then a man is found dead
at the bottom of Emma’s stairs, things take a turn for the worse and Emma finds herself on trial for murder. It’s a did she/didn’t she scenario. She is determined to protect her family and her reputation at all costs. I very much enjoyed this story. It’s quite a tense and suspenseful read. It really had me on the edge of my seat at times. It made think about how precarious life is, especially if a person is in the public eye - there’s nowhere to hide! It’s well written with some realistic and strong characters, not always very likeable I have to say. I found it engrossing, absorbing and thought provoking. And quite the page turner. If you enjoy courtroom style thrillers, you’ll love this one!

Mothers and Daughters by Erica James
A delightful family drama revolving around a mother and her two daughters (as the title suggests!). Naomi still lives in Anchor House which overlooks the sea, rebuilding her life after the death of her husband. Her chalk and cheese daughters, Martha and Willow, live with their respective partners but not all is happy in their worlds. It’s a tale of the secrets we keep and how those secrets reverberate and affect those around us. This is a very enjoyable story about family dynamics. I loved the characters of Naomi and her two daughters. They seemed very realistic and believable. I cared about them. It’s a beautifully written tale, covering some serious issues as well as being entertaining and easy to read. The coastal setting for Anchor House sounded idyllic and it wasn’t difficult to transport myself and imagine walking along the beach at Tilsham. I’ve been a fan of Erica James’ work for quite a number of years now and they never disappoint. I found Mothers & Daughters a captivating, engaging and compelling read. I can highly recommend it.

Stepping Up by Sarah Turner
When Beth’s brother-in-law dies and her sister is unconscious in hospital in a comatose state after an accident, she steps up to look after their children. Having had no previous experience of childcare and being a little scatterbrained, life suddenly turns into pandemonium. I love a good family drama story and this one definitely fitted the bill. It’s a lovely, heartwarming tale which made me chuckle along the way. There are some wonderful characters and I especially liked Beth. She’s so chaotic, she reminds me a little of myself! It’s beautifully written with some emotional and moving moments. It brought a tear to my eye at times. An uplifting and touching read which is sure to warm the cockles of your heart.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
In 1937 newly married Alice leaves England for Kentucky in hope of a better life with her handsome American husband, Bennett. But not all goes to plan and Alice ends up unhappy. She decides to join four other women and become part of the travelling library which delivers books on horseback, a system devised by Eleanor Roosevelt. They became known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky. This is the story of their lives during this period in time. What a wonderful book! There are some fantastic characters. I especially liked Margery - I could picture her vividly in my mind. It has a good plotline - it’s quite the page turner and I was gripped from beginning to end. A very enjoyable, well written, interesting and absorbing read.

Exile by Sarah Bourne
Kirstie has exiled herself on Yell, one of the Shetland Islands, after a distrastrous affair with a married man which ended in difficult circumstances. She’s living in a croft which once belonged to her grandparents and where her estranged mother, Morag, grew up. She starts to learn about her mother’s history and tries to come to terms with her own childhood. Then Morag decides to return to Yell. Will there be a reconciliation? I enjoyed this story. It’s quite a slow burner where the reader is gradually drawn in and fed small pieces of information, building up to a twist in the end. There are some interesting and complex characters. I didn’t particularly like Kirstie and Morag, but Ishbel and Duncan more than made up for them. It’s a tale of guilty secrets, misunderstandings and forgiveness. It’s about how the past comes back to haunt us and can make us behave in irrational and unfathomable ways. A well written, thought provoking tale and a great analysis of human nature. A worthwhile 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: 4290
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

April

Post by Vanessa » Mon May 9th, 2022, 7:54 am

Here’s my list for April:

Smoke & Cracked Mirrors by Karen Charlton
This is the first in the York Ladies Detective Agency Mysteries set during WWII. Two young women, Jemma James and Bobbie Baker, decide to set up their own private investigation agency and find themselves involved in all sorts of shenanigans and even murder. I enjoyed this fun and entertaining story. I liked Jemma and Bobbie, I thought they were delightful. I love that this series is set in York and surrounding areas, places I know very well. I could picture it all so easily in my mind! There’s quite a lot going on in this mystery, but it’s well paced and written. It definitely kept me turning the pages until the end. An engaging and intriguing read. I look forward to the next book in the series!


The Trial of Lotta Rae by Siobhan MacGowan
Set in London during the time of the Suffragettes, a 15 year old girl is attacked by an affluent gentleman. The case goes to court in the hands of barrister William Linden. When things don’t go the girl’s way, her life is never the same again and she finds herself in pursuit of vengeance. This is such a fabulous read and wonderfully written, too. It’s very evocative of the era it’s set in, having a great sense of time and place. It’s quite a dark and harrowing tale but extremely compelling. It combines fact with fiction beautifully with the suffragette movement cleverly woven into the plot. The characters are well written and believable, especially Lotta. I did feel for her plight and I did shed the odd tear or two. A gripping and captivating story which I can thoroughly recommend to historical fiction and thriller readers both!


The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey
When a mermaid is captured near the island of Black Conch, a fisherman rescues her and tries to help her. She slowly changes into a woman and they fall in love. But, as she is cursed and tensions rise in Black Conch, she finds she cannot remain on the island forever. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. I found it a bit of a slog to be honest. It reminded me a little of the films ‘Miranda’ and ‘Splash’ but with a darker overtone. It’s quite a sad story which dwelled on the ignorance of people when coming across someone who is different. It was OK but I wouldn’t rave about it.


Bitter Trade by Piers Alexander
Set during the reign of James II and the Glorious Revolution, Calumny Spinks wants to be apprenticed to a trade but his father refuses to grant his wish. It appears Peter Spinks has a secret, one which sees them both travelling to London after the unwarranted death of Calumny’s mother. Calumny becomes a coffee racketeer and when Peter’s past catches up with him in the form of a blackmailer, they find themselves in a race against time to gather the money together to make payment. I mostly enjoyed this book. I did find it confusing at times as there were so many characters and I found the writing style a little disjointed. It’s quite the romp through a tumultuous period in history. It reminded me somewhat of Game of Thrones on occasion. I enjoyed the historical side to it and thought there was a good sense of time and place. It was all well described. All in all, I found The Bitter Trade a fast paced and exciting adventure story with a fascinating cast of characters. I understand it’s the first in a trilogy so am interested in reading the next book in the series, Scatterwood.


The Spa Break by Caroline James
Four friends, all in their sixties, embark on a weekend away together at the luxury Sparadise Hotel. They are promised a few days of rest and relaxation but, as the way of these things, instead they experience life changing moments. This is an entertaining and enjoyable story with some very zany characters and plenty of amusing antics. It’s a laugh a minute. The pace fair rattles along and I found myself avidly turning the pages in anticipation of what would happen next. There is plenty to keep one occupied at the Sparadise Hotel from yoga lessons to makeovers and even a spot of glamping and naturism to boot. One is never too old to tango! A fun and witty read just right for the young at heart. I might even book a room there myself! 😜

Vanessa
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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