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Vanessa’s Reading Log 2018

What have you read this year? Post your list here and update it as you go along! (One thread per member, please.)
User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce & The Poison Bed by E C Fremantle (Pigeonhole)
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Vanessa’s Reading Log 2018

Postby Vanessa » Sun February 4th, 2018, 1:58 pm

Here’s my list for January:

Plague Pits & River Bones by Karen Charlton 4
The fourth in the Detective Stephen Lavender mystery series set in the early 19thC. Murder, highway robbery, political intrigue and the slave trade combine to make a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable tale. A wonderful blend of historical fact and fiction, this story is well researched and well written. It kept me on my toes with plenty of twists and turns and hurtled along to an almost cliffhanger ending! I’ve already read book one, The Heiress of Linn Hagh. I will be returning to read books two and three and I guess I will have to read book five to find out what happens next. I think this will prove to be an excellent series.

Home Sweet Summer by Michelle Vernal 4
An engaging and heartwarming tale about finding yourself again. Isla returns to her roots in Bibury, New Zealand, after a failed relationship in London and a short spell in a Californian counselling haven. Life starts to look up as she begins to become part of the community again and joins in the planning of a fund raising ‘matchmaking’ event to renovate the local village (for want of a better word!) hall. This is a lovely little story. It’s nicely written and flows along. It’s quite humorous, it definitely had me chuckling a few times. There are some well drawn and vivid characters. I particularly liked Bridget who seemed to have everyone else’s interests at heart, whilst keeping her own secrets and conundrums very cloak and dagger! The ‘matchmaker’ is an interesting idea and I thought this added a bit of magic. A light-hearted and easy read which I enjoyed.

The Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart 4.5
A story about an autistic eight year old boy who lives with his mother and whose father is trying hard to connect with him and save his marriage. I thought this was quite a moving tale and loved how the father gradually came to understand his son more. There’s some humour, too, and I really liked how it was written. Quite a lot of it is centred around a computer game called Minecraft and I did find this bit tedious, not only because I haven’t heard of the game but because I have no interest in computer games! Apart from that, I really enjoyed it.

The Secret Wife by Gill Paul 5
Inspired by the life of Grand Duchess Tatiana Romanova and her affection for an injured Russian Imperial Guard, Dmitri Malama, who came into her care at the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo where she volunteered as a nurse during WWI. It's a dual timeframe story and is told through the eyes of Dmitri and also those of his (fictional) great grand-daughter, Kitty. I was totally captivated by this 'what if' tale. There's a fantastic combination of historical fact and fiction. I knew the fate of the Romanov family but not all the details. This book filled me in and I was quite horrified by their barbaric and brutal end. So cruel! This story was a wonderful imagining of what might have happened if Tatiana and her soldier had survived. It's beautifully told and all the characters felt so very real. I could just picture Kitty sitting outside her cabin, drinking wine and watching the sunset after a day's carpentry renovation! I really liked Dmitri but my favourite character has to be another lady who came into his life, Rosa. Such a colourful and Bohemian sounding person! And I loved the thought of (non-fictional) Ortipo, the French Bulldog, a gift from Dmitri to Tatiana, with her Fabergé dog tag! An absorbing and fascinating story. I just loved it!



Thirteen by Shani Struthers 5
Another great companion novella to add to the Psychic Surveys series. This one introduces Ness Patterson who is a Psychic Investigator. It gives a good insight into her character, how she is as she is and what makes her tick. Ness travels to the Isle of Skye to investigate spooky and sinister goings on at a lighthouse. Thirteen is unlucky for some and it definitely is in this tale! I loved the setting, just right for a ghost story - it’s very atmospheric and wonderfully described. I could just visualise the remoteness of the island and the unpredictable weather conditions. The characters are very believable and realistic. What more could you want from a spine tingling eerie read!? Just keep your lights shining! You never know what’s out there.

Coming Home to Island House by Erica James 5
This story begins in 1939 when Romily Devereux Temple returns home from a trip to France to find her husband, Jack, ill with a stroke. Jack tragically eventually dies. Under the terms of his will, his estranged children must spend a week together at Island House to try to build bridges, mend old wounds and put the past behind them. This is a lovely family drama and I got quite immersed in all the characters’ lives. It’s beautifully written and told. I enjoy tales set around a house and it’s occupants so it was right up my street. It’s some time since I’ve read a book by Erica James, so this one has put her on my list to read more of again! I loved it!



(The ‘spoiler’ book is one which I received to review but I’m not supposed to post until a month before it’s published. I don’t know why as I’ve seen reviews for it already! I’ve put it under a spoiler so it can’t show up on a search.)
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
Currently reading: The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce & The Poison Bed by E C Fremantle (Pigeonhole)
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

February

Postby Vanessa » Sun March 4th, 2018, 10:00 am

Here's my list for March:

Blood Sisters by Jane Corry. 3.5
ThIs is about two sisters. In the present day one If them is disabled and lives in a care home and the other is a teacher. Severeral years ago there was a terrible accident. What really happened that day and why is someone trying to find the sisters? I enjoyed this book but thought it was rather far fetched at times. There were too many coincidences and quite a few grey areas. Nevertheless, there were plenty of twists and turns to keep me reading. There were also a lot of surprises. A fairly enjoyable read.

Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner. 4
An engaging psychological mystery about a young woman who is reported missing. She leaves behind her coat, mobile phone and a trail of blood. The hunt to find her is in the hands of the Cambridgeshire MIT team and a nationwide search begins. ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!’ The plot is quite a slow burner, it draws you in gradually and then the pace picks up. It’s very much character driven and delves into human relationships and psyche. I enjoy a mystery which has a human interest rather than one that contains gory murder scenes so this one fits the bill for me. I prefer a conundrum and this one was certainly puzzling! There are a few red herrings and the conclusion is a surprising one, albeit a little far fetched. An enjoyable and compelling story which had me eagerly turning the pages. I look forward to reading more by Susie Steiner.

The Year That Changed Everything by Cathy Kelly. 4
A heartwarming tale which begins with three women, Callie, Sam and Ginger, celebrating their 50th, 40th and 30th birthdays respectively on the same day. They are all on the cusp of a transformation in one way or another due to a knock at the door, a baby or a spiteful remark.. Life can change in an instant and it certainly does for these ladies! This is a lovely and captivating story with some great, well drawn characters. It’s about how even in the darkest of times, there is always usually a way through to the light at the end of the tunnel. These three determined and resilient women show remarkable strength and fortitude as they weather the storms of life with the help of friends and family. It's at times like this that friends do, actually, show their true colours. I am not sure I have a favourite character, but if I have to choose, it would be Callie. I think Callie had the biggest fight on her hands and the hardest journey. By the end of the book she travelled so far. A very enjoyable and uplifting read, which I can recommend to those who like a ‘slice of life’ drama about overcoming adversity and obstacles. Life isn't always easy as they say.

Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith. 3
This is basically about a block of flats in London nicknamed 'Corduroy Mansions' and its inhabitants. There are some interesting and eclectic characters, my favourite bring Freddie de la Hay. The plot meanders through certain aspects of their lives and their trials and tribulations, too numerous to mention. I enjoyed it but thought it was rather twee.

One Cornish Summer by Liz Fenwick. 5
I loved this book! It’s set in Cornwall and is about two women, both of whom have secrets. Hebe is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s, whilst her niece Lucy is fleeing from an unsuitable and scandalous relationship. Hebe retreats to her favourite place to buy Helwyn House and enlists Lucy’s help restore it. For Lucy, however, the house holds painful memories. This is a real ‘Bertie Bassett’ type of a story! It contains a bit of all sorts - mystery, history, romance and a stunning setting. It's beautifully written with some interesting, well drawn characters. I thought Hebe's parts of the tale were particularly vividly and poignantly written. They depicted so very well how devastating Alzheimer's is, how fragmented Hebe's mind was. This is just a great story! An intriguing and captivating read which I didn't want to end.
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
Currently reading: The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce & The Poison Bed by E C Fremantle (Pigeonhole)
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

March

Postby Vanessa » Mon April 2nd, 2018, 11:00 am

Here's my list for April:

The Best Boomerville Hotel by Caroline James. 3.5
The Best Boomerville Hotel is situated in the Lake District. The resident holidaymakers are of a 'certain age', the 'baby boomer' generation, and they have booked into the hotel to put the spring back in their step. This is a light-hearted and quirky read with quite a few zany and colourful characters. Some of the humour is a little slapstick for my tastes and sometimes it reminded me of 'Fawlty Towers'. The plot has its bizarre and whacky moments. Nevertheless, it's well written and it does keep you entertained! If there ever was such a place, I wouldn't mind booking in myself if only as a fly on the wall! A fun and lively read just right for a bit of escapism.

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale. 5
Wow! I absolutely loved this book! The story begins in 1917 in London. Tucked away in the streets is the Toy Emporium, a completely enchanting shop where the imagination can run riot. Into this shop comes Cathy Wray who has run away from home and she is drawn deeper and deeper into its secrets. A wonderful and magical tale! It's beautifully, lyrically and fantastically written. I would so love to visit this store and see the life-like patchwork animals and toys which aren't what they seem!

Perception & Illusion by Catherine Kullman. 4
This is a very enjoyable Regency romance, with echoes of Georgette Heyer, about how misunderstandings can cause so much trouble and open up a whole can of worms. It’s extremely well written and plotted with great attention to historical detail. I loved the chapter headings giving an inkling to their content! I also found the author’s notes at the back of the book very interesting. There are some wonderfully vivid and realistic characters, most of them likeable and, of course, the odd one or two unlikeable ones! It’s a fun, nicely paced and lively read. What’s more, it kept me entertained throughout.

Someone to Look Up To by Jean Gill. 4
This is the touching ‘autobiography’ of Sirius the Pyrenean Mountain Dog. It’s beautifully, cleverly and imaginatively written. It also really gets into the head of this most wonderful and loyal animal, man’s best friend. Sirius’s voice is so very believable. There are both sad and happy times, as well as some amusing moments. It was such a pleasure to read! As a dog owner and lover myself, I can highly recommend this enjoyable book to canine fans everywhere.o

The Power by Naomi Alderman. 2.5
Set sometime in the future and I think the story ends 5000 years in my the future. Women have discovered that they have a skein across their collarbones which enables them to electrocute those who displease them, namely men. When I first started this book, I thought was going to enjoy it. It started off well and there are some letters between 'authors' which are intriguing. For me, however, it went downhill from there. Sci fi isn’t my genre and I also don’t enjoy political novels. I just couldn’t engage with the story, although I think it’s very imaginative and had something to say. It just got too nasty for me. An interesting concept and quite thought provoking, but ultimately not my cup of tea!

The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements. 4
Scarcroft Hall can be found high up on the Yorkshire Moors along the Coffin Path. Here lives Mercy Booth with her father. Strange and sinister events start occurring: three old gold coins go missing as does an inkwell and there are sounds of footsteps in an unused bedroom. And what is this shadowy presence that Mercy senses? And then Ellis Ferriby arrives.....Just what is his purpose? This is an enjoyable and creepy ghost story. It's beautifully and gothically written. I think it reads like a classic.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (audio). 4
Rachel catches the same train every day and she's a people watcher. Rachel has problems and she makes up lives for those she watches, in particular a young couple who she often sees as she takes her journey. She gives them the names of 'Jess' and 'Jason'. One day she sees something which shocks her and from then on her life takes a dangerous direction. I've already seen the film so I decided to listen to the audio book instead of read it! I enjoyed the story and like the three different narrator's voices. The film has kept quite true to the book apart from the location and the ending is a little different but not dramatically so.p
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
Currently reading: The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce & The Poison Bed by E C Fremantle (Pigeonhole)
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

April

Postby Vanessa » Sat June 2nd, 2018, 10:50 am

Here’s my list for April:

Hidden Lives by Judith Lennox 5
Dual timeframe set in the present day and the 1930s. When her grandmother dies Rose Martineaux inherits her house, The Egg, in Sussex. It’s so named due to its shape. As Rose is going through her grandmother’s possessions, she discovers she had a sister called Sadie who used to own The Egg as well as another house their father had built. As Rose digs deeper she discovers hidden secrets and learns why the sisters were estranged. I love a good saga and this one doesn’t disappoint. I feel I’m always guaranteed a great read when I pick up one of Judith Lennox’s books. Well written and thoroughly engrossing tale about family secrets and scandal.

The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent 3.5
One wintry night Fran Hall wakes up to find her husband absent and, after a frantic search, finds him dead in a ditch. As the police delve deeper into the case and Fran becomes the prime suspect, dark secrets are revealed. Just what was her husband keeping hidden about his life and is Fran hiding something herself? Nothing is as it seems! This was quite an intriguing psychological thriller, even though I wasn't particularly enamoured of the writing style. It seemed a little disjointed but I wondered whether it was trying to depict the main character's agitated state of mind. Nevertheless, I found it a compelling mystery. I was eager to read on to find out how it ended. There were plenty of twists and turns to keep me on my toes and a fair few dysfunctional characters to keep me interested. I was never sure who the killer was until the final reveal. This is the first book I have read by Christobel Kent and I enjoyed it enough to want to read another one!

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult 5
Ruth is a midwife in a hospital. When a young couple, who are white supremacists, are admitted to have their baby, they ask for a change of nurse due to the colour of Ruth’s skin. Whilst Ruth is on duty and there is no-one else to call on, the baby becomes ill. Ruth is in a quandary and doesn’t know whether to touch the baby or not. Her vocation overcomes her and she tries to give the baby CPR but the baby dies. Consequently Ruth finds herself on trial for murder. Enter Kennedy, her white lawyer, who is determined to have Ruth acquitted. I really enjoyed this book. It’s a typical Jodi Picoult story where she writes about a controversial subject. I found it quite cringe-worthy and scary at times especially the father’s parts. It’s astonishing that this sort of prejudice is still going on in this day and age. Great reading and ends on a note of hope as do most of Jodi Picoult’s books.

The Two Houses by Fran Cooper 4
After a mental breakdown Jay and her husband decide to buy a weekend home in Yorkshire. The house(s) is/are called ‘Two Houses’, so called because they used to be one house but a previous owner decided to remove the central part as he thought it was haunted by his wife! All is not as idyllic as Jay and Simon first supposed. The villagers are very distant with them, keep hinting for them to leave and when a horrible discovery is made during building work to bring the houses together again, things get even worse. This is a poetically, evocatively and beautifullywritten story with sinister undertones. I enjoyed it.

A Fractured Winter by Allison Baillie 3
A missing person mystery set in the Swiss mountains, Scarborough and Edinburgh. I thought the descriptions of the Alps and the surrounding scenery were wonderful and I found the Swiss traditions mentioned very interesting to read about. The mystery side of the story was quite well paced with a few twists and turns, but at times seemed a little bizarre and far-fetched. The actions of the main character for a supposedly intelligent woman were, I thought, quite harebrained and implausible. The constant questioning of herself became somewhat repetitive and I just wanted to give her a good shake and tell her to get on with life! The ending was neatly and satisfactorily tied up, perhaps too much so. Nevertheless, it made for quite enjoyable, pleasant and easy reading.

Last Letter Home by Rachel Hore 4.5
Dual timeframe story set in Italy and England during WWII and the present day. Whilst on holiday in Naples historian Briony Wood comes across a ruined villa in the hills and discovers a connection to her own family. She is given a bundle of letters between a young woman called Sarah Bailey and a half-German man called Paul Hartmann. As Briony investigates their story more, she uncovers some family secrets which could lead to scandal. Another great saga and another author who usually always guarantees me a fantastic read. Good storytelling and an absorbing tale.
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
Currently reading: The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce & The Poison Bed by E C Fremantle (Pigeonhole)
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favorite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

May

Postby Vanessa » Sat June 2nd, 2018, 10:52 am

Here's my list for May:

The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve 5
A gripping Victorian murder mystery with a difference! It's the first in the Leo Stanhope mystery series. Leo is a transgender coroner's assistant and becomes mixed up in the murder of a prostitute. This a fabulous read with some fantastic and intriguing characters. The leading protagonist is very realistic, likeable and sympathetically drawn. It’s beautifully and evocatively written. There’s a good sense of time and place, so easy to visualise. There are plenty of twists and turns with the odd red herring. The plot is engaging and fast paced, it drew me in immediately. I couldn’t wait to read the next chapter. What more can be said! A thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining story.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. 5
This is the story of Eleanor Oliphant who has suffered tragedy in her life and as a consequence leads quite a lonely existence. She wears the same clothes every day, eats the same meal deal every day and drinks two bottles of vodka each weekend. One day she helps an elderly man who has fallen in the street and this little act of kindness starts to change everything. I thought this was a lovely story. I really liked Eleanor, she was a little twee and quirky! It was quite a moving tale, too, as well as some laugh out loud moments. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Blood & Roses by Catherine Hokin. 4
A fascinating account of the life of Margaret of Anjou beginning with her wedding to King Henry VI in 1445 at the age of 15, leading to her involvement in the War of the Roses and her eventual exile in France in 1481. I thought this was a well put together and nicely paced retelling of such an ambitious and formidable queen's role in history. The research and effort which has gone into it is admirable. The story is told in a straight-forward, uncomplicated and easy to follow style. I found it an entertaining and imaginative interpretation which kept me turning the pages. It certainly brought Margaret to life for me. A very interesting, absorbing and enjoyable read - it's an excellent piece of story telling! I think fans of Philippa Gregory and Jean Plaidy would like this one.

The Owlmen by S E England. 4
An atmospheric and creepy occult horror story about a young couple who buy Tanner’s Dell, a house with a sinister past, in the small village of Bridesmoor. They set about renovating it, leading to some strange and macabre happenings. This book is a follow up to the author’s ‘Father of Lies’ trilogy which I haven’t as yet read. Even though I think The Owlmen works well as a stand-alone novel, I wish I had read the previous books first (I will be remedying this) so I knew more about the back story. Nevertheless, I found it a gripping tale of suspense with vibes of Dennis Wheatley. I loved the vivid and descriptive style of writing which drew me in instantly. There are some fascinating and intriguing characters, good as well as wicked! It’s fast paced with just the right amount of menace but not too much gory stuff. It’s quite spine tingling, too, so I definitely won’t be walking in the woods in the middle of the night any time soon! Not that I do...... :twisted: :o :P

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (audio]
The touching story of how Lale Sokolov, a Jewish Slovakian, is transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, becomes the camp Tattooist, falls in love and survives against all odds. I thought this was a harrowing but moving story of survival, all the more so because it is based on a true one. Lale's story is incredible, he seemed to have had more lives than a cat. It's sad that he worried he would be thought of as a German collaborator. He did what he had to do to survive. It wasn't too graphic and just touched on certain horrific events. I'm glad I listened to it rather than read it. Thirty to forty minutes at a time whilst walking the dog was enough for me in a day. I thought Richard Armitage narrated it beautifully. He thanked Lale for letting him read his story which I thought was lovely. I also thought The son's 'Afterword' at the end was quite touching. He is quite right to be extremely proud of his parents.

The Beekeeper’s Promise by Fiona Valpy. 5
This is a thoroughly enjoyable and moving tale. It's set in France during WWII and the present day, telling two interconnecting stories of two different women, each with their own mountain to climb. Dual timeframe is my favourite genre and this one certainly didn't disappoint. Beautifully written and vividly told, there's a great sense of time and place. It's all so easy to visualise. The characters are well defined and realistic. I don't really have a favourite but if I had to choose it would be Eliane for her resilience during the German occupation of France. Both the women, however, overcome adversity and find strength they never knew they had. I also found the descriptions of the lives of the bees in their hives fascinating and this really added to my enjoyment of the book. A captivating and gripping page turner which I can highly recommend. "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about dancing in the rain."

Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer. 4
Two brothers suffering from the plague in 1348 make a pact with the devil. They are given the choice of staying with their families for the last six days of their lives, or time travelling six times 99 years at a time. They choose the time travelling option. I thought this was a very interesting story. It gives a quick glimpse into 1447, 1546, 1645, 1744, 1843 and 1942, showing how the world has changed or doesn’t change, and how divided we’ve become. Some things definitely don’t change! It was an absorbing, fascinating and enjoyable read.

The Hourglass by Liz Heron. 3
Venice is a city which I have visited and loved. It is one of the main characters in a tale about time and immortality. The writing is beautiful, eloquent and pictorial. The descriptions of Venice are wonderfully evocative and atmospheric. I enjoyed this element in the book as it took me on a trip down memory lane. However, I found the story lacking something. It didn’t totally engage with me, sadly. I found it a little tedious at times and quite heavy going. I found the characterisation somewhat flat, too. I don’t know very much about opera, which is one of the tale’s themes, so maybe this had something to do with my lack of enthusiasm. If you’re an opera fan, maybe this is a book for you. An interesting and unusual read, but at the end of the day not really my cup of tea.
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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