My favourite books in 2017

Christmas

This year, I reviewed 70 books from a variety of genres.  Often, those I like most combine genres such as mystery, romance, history etc.  I’m not going to list 10 or more top books but just 7 in the order I read them during the year.  These are the books I couldn’t put down, in which I became immersed and regretted finishing.

James & Laura

In April I was thrilled to return to Jan Ruth’s Midnight Sky series, reading the last of the trilogy, Strawberry Sky.  This was an intense story of love and suffering, a family saga featuring a wonderful horse whisperer.  If you are tempted please start with Book 1 Midnight Sky.

Tipping

The next great book was the beginning of Terry Tyler’s post-apocalypse series.  What makes Tipping Point so convincing are her characters who step out of the page to talk to us.  They have flaws, they make mistakes, they are human and we want them (or at least most of them) to survive.  Luckily, Terry followed up quite quickly with the second book in the Project Renova series and I am looking forward to the third book in 2018.

Georgia Lies

Another of my favourite authors, Georgia Rose, whose unusual thriller series The Grayson Trilogy is well worth seeking out, produced Parallel Lies, a new stand-alone novel, this year.  Superbly plotted, with twists to catch you out, it kept me guessing to the end.

Wickedness

I was so excited when Carol Hedges published another episode in the investigations of detectives, Cully and Stride. Wonders & Wickedness lives up to the quality and excitement of the previous volumes, steeped in the smells, sounds and sights of Victorian London. You can start with this book or any other in this wonderful series.

Divided

It is always good to discover a new author.  Thanks to Terry Tyler’s reviews I started reading books by Deborah Swift and my favourite was A Divided Inheritance.  Starting in early 17th century London the story moves to Spain where the heroine finds herself a fish out of water in a dangerous situation. A fascinating novel.

Cowboy

Another author I finally discovered this year was June Kearns.  I loved both her books but An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy is superb.  A brave, desirable hero, a sympathetic heroine and an amazing historical setting made it such pleasure to read.

Castle

And the last of my seven choices is the second book I have read by Lizzie Lamb.  We share similar names, Scottish birth and similar careers but if only I could write the way Lizzie can.  If you’ve time to spare over Christmas, do download Girl in the Castle for sheer indulgence.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

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My Life in Books (1917 Edition)

Belles

Here’s a bit of Christmas fun courtesy of Roof Beam Reader

The rule is, complete the phrase with books you read this year:

At school I was the: Oath Breaker (Shelley Wilson)

People might be surprised by my: Past Encounters (Davina Blake)

I will never be: Down and Out in Kathmandu (Jennifer S Alderson)

My fantasy job is: Girl in the Castle (Lizzie Lamb)

At the end of a long day I need: My Sweet Friend (H A Leuschel)

I hate it when there’s: No Way Back (Kelly Florentia)

I wish I had: The Honesty of Tigers (David Bridger)

My family reunions are; A Divided Inheritance (Deborah Swift)

At a party you will find me making: The Last Gamble (Anabelle Bryant)

I’ve never been to: Lindisfarne (Terry Tyler)

A happy day includes: Wonders & Wickedness (Carol Hedges)

The motto I live by is: Everybody’s Somebody (Beryl Kingston)

On my Bucket List is: The Little French Guest House (Helen Pollard)

In my next life I want a: Garden of Stars (Rose Alexander)

If you decide to play along, add a link to your post in the comments box on Roof Beam Reader’s post and the comments box on this post so I can take a look at yours.

The Woman at the Light by Joanna Brady #FridayReads #BookReview

Woman at the light

One afternoon in 1839, Emily Lowry’s husband vanishes from Wreckers’ Cay, an isolated island off the coast of Key West where he tends to the lighthouse. As days stretch into months, Emily has no choice but take charge of Wrecker’s Cay and her husband’s duties tending the light to support her three children, and a fourth on the way. Unexpected help arrives when a runaway slave named Andrew washes up on their beach. At first, Emily is intensely wary of this strange, charming man, whose very presence there is highly illegal. But Andrew proves himself an enormous help and soon wins the hearts of the Lowry family. And, far from the outside world and society’s rules, his place in Emily’s life is as steadfast now as the light, and will forever change their futures. When Emily’s family is ripped apart once again, she faces untold hardships that test her love and determination and show how the passionate love of a defiant, determined woman can overcome any obstacle.

My Review

A lighthouse is of such significance both as a life-saver and a symbol. On dangerous coasts in the 19th century their importance could not be over-rated, so it is astonishing to learn that in some cases, the vital task of igniting the light each evening was undertaken by women.  This story is based on one of those women who had responsibility for part of the wrecking coast of the Florida Keys.

 

Emily is determined to take on this responsibility, in the hope that her husband Martin will reappear.  Living alone on the fictional island of Wreckers’ Cay, 23 miles from Key West, Emily’s family have in many ways found their life idyllic and she has no wish to become dependent on her Gran.  The arrival of Andrew, still shackled as a slave, is a shock but also a blessing.  He becomes an important part of the children’s lives and gradually Emily begins to feel desire for him.  Such a situation in that place and time can only lead to tragedy and the approach of a terrible storm changes their lives forever.

 

Emily is a survivor, but she is also a spirited woman who makes her own way in the world, fighting for the best life for her children.  Her sister Dorothy seems a more relaxed, easy-going woman for whom life is easier, but we learn that she is more complex and plays a major role in Emily’s future.  The second part of this story takes back to Key West and later to Cuba and New York.  I found the interaction between Emily and the men she encountered, depending on her social standing, particularly interesting.  We might find it very hard to adapt to a man such as Pedro Salas, who combines charm and sexual demands, but Emily is a woman of her time.

 

What begins as a story of love and hardship, becomes an unfolding mystery story and family saga.  I would recommend this novel to anyone interested in 19th century American history and also as a story of passion and courage.

You can find The Woman at the Light at Amazon UK

and at Amazon US

Joanna Brady

Joanna Brady

Jonah by Carl Rackman #fridayreads #bookreview

Jonah

When a U boat is spotted floating on the surface of the Atlantic in 1940 by a British destroyer, the remaining German crew accuse one of their shipmates of being a Jonah.  Why then, in the Pacific in 1945, do the same events seem to be recurring on US Navy destroyer Brownlee?

 

The protagonist of this novel, “Lucky” Mitch Kirkham is introduced to us as he and his crewmates are involved in a terrifying battle with a continuous attack by Japanese Kamikaze pilots.  For the second time in his naval career, Mitch survives while others are killed.  He finds himself an outcast, distrusted, disliked and mistreated by his immediate superior.  When his life is threatened he is befriended by Father McGready, who gives him some hope that he will return home safely, but soon many of the crew are showing symptoms of hysteria, seeing ghosts and talking of a sea-monster.  Mitch is a naturally curious individual, an interesting character to follow, but this leads him into more trouble.  He no longer knows whom he can trust or who will be acting strangely, next.

 

The author gradually reveals the back stories of Mitch and the other characters so that we understand their demons.  Battle scenes are vividly described and full of tension.  It is evident that Carl Rackman has thoroughly researched wartime life in the US navy and we can imagine ourselves on board the Brownlee.  As the plot develops, the reader feels an increasing fear of imminent disaster leading to an eventful, surprising conclusion.

Jonah is available at Amazon UK  and Amazon US

ANYTHING BUT BOOKS TAG

Anything

I’m pleased to take part in one of those random questions things, after being tagged by writer pal Terry Tyler ~ you can read her post HERE. She in turn was tagged by  Shelley Wilson 

Q1. Name a cartoon that you love.

I don’t really love cartoons.  I adored Popeye when I was a child but occasionally I will now watch Futurama.

Futurama_NextGen_Spotlight_NoLogo_1920x1080

Q2. What is your favourite song right now?

I usually only listen to music in the car.  I have always liked Fields of Gold especially the version by Sting, but at the moment I really like Katie Melua’s version for Children in Need.

Gold

Q3. What could you do for hours that isn’t reading?

I have always enjoyed walking by water; along a beach, a promenade or a clifftop path.

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Q4. What is something that you love to do that your followers would be surprised by?

A few months ago I started Tai Chi lessons.  I enjoy the stretches, the breathing and the mindfulness.  I hope it will improve my terrible balance.

Tai chi chuan.

Q5. What is your favourite, unnecessarily specific thing to learn about?

I like finding out about my ancestors who built Thames barges or worked as lightermen on the Thames. I also have researched the lives of my ancestors who were born in Gibraltar, Nova Scotia and Barbados as army brats because their father was a 19th century soldier.

Q6. What is something unusual you know how to do?

Not so much know how to do, but always remember.  I can tell you most of the main Dewey decimal numbers for topics in a Library, such as 821 for poetry or 595.7 for Insects.  I can also remember book authors, especially of children’s books even though I can’t remember the names of people I know.  It’s a symptom of a lifetime of working in school libraries.

Q7. Name something that you’ve made in the last year.

I made a blanket out of crocheted squares with a crochet along challenge on Facebook.

snowflake Sq

Q8. What is your most recent personal project?

I am researching and writing about what happened to children from the Workhouse who were sent to a sail training ship or into service as a maid.

Q9. Tell us something that you think of often.

I think about my grandchildren even though I see a lot of them and when I’m not there I think about our little house in Portugal.

IMG_0428

Q10. Tell us something that’s your favourite, but make it oddly specific.

My favourite activity is discovering new cousins through genealogy, and either meeting them or corresponding with them.  I have met several lovely people this way, from all over the world.

Mark

Meeting my American cousins in London

I’m not going to Tag anyone else as I’m not sure who would like to do it but if you are reading this and would like to accept the challenge. I would love to read your answers.

This Week in Books #WWWblogs

thisweek

Today I am borrowing the idea of Lipsyy Lost and Found to share my current reading.

I recently finished Away for Christmas by Jan Ruth which you can pre-order for delivery in a week’s time.

Away

I will be reviewing this seasonal book very soon.

I have just started to read an unusual, inviting book by David Bridger called The Honesty of Tigers which is really intriguing.

Honesty

And next week I will start reading one of the Kate Redman Mysteries by Celina Grace which are always enjoyable reads. This is Book 3 of the series of 9 and is called Imago

Imago

You might also like to read what books Margaret at Books Please is reading this week.

Silent Night by Wendy Clarke #RBRT #BookReview #Christmas

Silent Night

 

As a teenager I loved staying with my Gran in Scotland so that I could read her People’s Friend Annual.  The stories had a feel-good theme which made me look forward to being one of the young women in the tales.  A few years ago, my mother was passing on copies of the magazine and I discovered the stories had moved with the times.  Nowadays they deal with single parents, caring grandparents and the problems of divorce.  So, I had an inkling that Wendy Clarke’s book of Christmas stories which have already been published in the People’s Friend and Women’s Weekly would be a rewarding experience.

 

There are 13 stories of which two take us back to the twentieth century.  The characters are children, young couples, middle-aged men and women stuck in their ways and old people with sad stories but wisdom to pass on.  Some try to recreate happy Christmas gatherings from the past while others try to escape the traditions and family problems of a conventional day.

 

Bella’s Christmas, “On my Own,” particularly appeals to me personally and promises a change in her future life, while “Project Christmas”, “A Christmas Present called Abbie,” and “A Song for Christmas,” are heartening accounts of how young men come to terms with looking after a family they love at Christmas.

 

“Cancelling Christmas,” and “Together for Christmas,” reminded me that friendship is worth celebrating at this time and “Finding Santa,” shows how strangers will rally round to make Christmas special when disaster strikes.

 

“Christmas Strike” is a lesson for us all about making assumptions about others while “The Greatest Gift” is a touching story about love, although I did feel that Lindsay was almost too perfect, in her happiness to receive only a small gift from her partner.

 

The two historical stories are sad and moving but perhaps the most unusual is “The Memory Purse” where Tracy’s attempt to give all the residents of a Retirement Village what they wish for, results in a surprise gift for her personally.  This lovely book would make an excellent present or a relaxing read for yourself over the festive season.

You can find Silent Night on Amazon UK

Wendy Clarke

Wendy Clarke

Wendy Clarke is a full time writer of women’s fiction. She started writing when the primary school she taught in closed down and after completing two creative writing courses, began writing short fiction for magazines. Since then, she has sold over two hundred short stories and her work regularly appears in national women’s magazines such as The People’s Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman’s Weekly. She has also written serials and a number of non-fiction magazine articles.

Wendy lives with her husband, cat and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food!

 

Rosie's Book Review team 1