Friday, 1 August 2014

Just July's Books

   Linking up once more with Laura over at her Circle of Pine Trees blog, hosting the Year in Books.

One of the best books I've read in a long time, 'The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry' by Gabrielle Zevin was devoured, the only word for it, in a few afternoons when it was too warm to do anything but sit and read in a room away from the sun, with a fan gently blowing cool air in front of me, and a glass of iced peach tea alongside. A.J. owns Island Books, a secondhand bookstore, and since his wife died he's lost heart, drinks too much too. Then one day two things happen; someone leaves a baby in his store with a note explaining they can't look after it any more, and a valuable old edition goes missing. Things start to look up, and get even better when he falls in love again. Life can't get better for A.J. but in the way of real life, it can get worse. But that's for you to find out! Brilliant read, highly recommended.

'Missed Connections - Love lost and Found' by Sophie Blackall isn't a novel, but a book of words and pictures. Sophie came across a website called Missed Connections, where people left messages for other people they didn't know. Which sounds odd I know.... it could be a man on the subway happened to give up his seat to a beautiful young woman, wished afterwards he'd asked her name, for her number. So he leaves a message on this site... 'to the beautiful young woman with the wonderful smile, wearing a red coat on Saturday when I let her have my seat....' that kind of thing. Sophie has put her own unique drawings to a selection of messages, and made this fun book. If you are a people watcher, this is the kind of book you'll probably enjoy.

I have to admit that I bought 'From a Distance' by Rafaella Barker mainly for the fabulous cover and the fact I've read her in the past. The story is set over two different eras, one just after WWII ends when Michael returns to England but rather than go back to Norfolk, the family farm and Janey, the woman he left behind to go to war, he boards a different train at the station at the last minute and goes to Cornwall. He arrives at a time when the arty Newlyn Set is under way; he lives with Felicity and they have a son, though don't marry. She knows that at some point he will have to go back to Norfolk, will need to, when he realised what it's like to love a child of your own, and from that, realises how he has hurt his own mother by staying away. So he returns, where Janey still waits for him. A generation later and his son also moves to Norfolk, where he discovers a whole new family,  and an inheritance from his late mother of a Lighthouse! Very good story, another to recommend as a summer read.

'The Almost Moon' by Alice Sebold, not, in my opinion as good as 'The Lovely Bones' but a book that held my attention from the start, where the pace really picked up towards the end. Helen has killed her ageing  mother, not something she planned to do, it just happened that one minute she was going to wash the infirm old lady, the next she suffocated her. What to do? She calls her ex husband Jake, who lives several hours away, but as ever ready to help her, he tells her to do nothing until he can get to her. But instead of doing as he says, she tells her children. It is obvious that the police will then be involved, and she puts the blame on someone else, knowing that it's only a matter of time before the truth comes out. So she borrows a car, steals a gun, intends doing away with herself. She hides out in a neighbours house.... but will she go through with it, or will she be discovered along with the truth? Very good read again.

Amanda Prowse is a new to me author, but several of her books were in a set bought cheaply as summer reading from a wellknown online and mail order book company. 'Clover's Child' is set in the 60s, when Dot, a white working class girl in London, meets Sol, a black soldier, son of a high-ranking US Army officer and his socialite wife. It stands to reason that this is not a union that is met with joy all around. Sol's mother knows this girl has trapped her son by getting pregnant, so makes him an offer he can't refuse, which means he leaves England, returns to America without a word to Dot. She is doubly shamed, having a relationship with a black man, and now an unmarried mother. She goes into a home for unmarried mother, her son is taken away from her and she returns to the family home, to a miserable life. She meets Wally, a decent man, but when he discovers her true love, he does something totally selfless for Dot. Will it be a happy ending for her with Sol? Will she remain with Wally and a life she's unhappy with? Or will she have a change of heart about him? Great writing that had me hooked from the start.

Joanna Trollope's  modern day version of 'Sense and Sensibility' left me cold. I loved Austen when I was younger, in my teens and early twenties, not so much these days. But the Jane Austen project intrigued me, where modern day authors do their own take on her classic stories. This has put me off reading the rest. I shall say no more. It wasn't Trollope, a writer I have enjoyed for many years and whose books I have, at her best in my opinion. Maybe others will disagree?

'Miss Buncle Married' by D.E. Stevenson is one of my Persephone classics, and is the story of Barbara Buncle a published writer, who marries Arthur, her publisher and several years her senior. Very much in love, they move out to the country to escape suburbia and the endless round of dinner parties and so on, which neither of them likes very much at all. Here they settle down to the sort of quiet life they want, with no social demands of their previous life. Their happiness is complete when Barbara announces she is going to have a baby. This is one of those gentle stories so typical of many of the Persephone imprints, and a really relaxing, non-taxing read.

Finally, 'The Crying Tree' by Naseem Rakha. Irene Stanley thought her world had come to an end when her 15 year old son Shep was murdered. Daniel Robbins, a troubled and troublesome boy, gave himself up to the police, admitted his guilt. Nineteen years later, and his execution by lethal injection draws near. Unbeknownst to her family, Irene had forgiven him, they had been writing to each other for some time, and now she wants to stop his execution, which means her husband will find out about their correspondence. And she will finally find out what happened the day her son was killed, and it's not as she believed. Another author I've not heard of, another of the 'summer reading' set, and another I am glad I had the chance to read, it's not one I would have chosen for myself and just proves it's good to step out of your comfort reading zone now and then.

Hope you have enjoyed your July reading; I'm looking forward to more recommendations!


  1. Hi Edwina. I really like the look of the first book on your list. Have made a note of that one.

    Best wishes from Carol

  2. Thanks for the comment Carol. I have been checking your blog regularly, hoping for another laugh!

  3. I've had family visiting from Glasgow recently, Edwina, but I'll get back to it soon.


  4. Two books from your list ( the first and third) ordered from the library straight away. Thank you for the recommendations. I enjoyed D. E Stevensons Miss Buncle books too

  5. Prolific reading again! I've never liked any of the attempts at revisiting the classics. The P.D James 'Death comes to Pemberley' was terrible. The only one I did like was Susan Hill's 'sequel' to 'Rebecca', 'Mrs De Winter'.

  6. I like the sound of Miss Buncle Married. One of my favourite Persephones is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. I loved the film version too, with Frances McDormand.