Saturday 31 December 2011

Books in my Year...

At the start of the year I planned to read 150 books for my Goodreads challenge - I'm pleased to say that ....I did it !!!!!!

Here they are ~ in no particular order.....

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
What's yours is mine by Tess Stimson
The Infidelity Chain by Tess Stimson
Smoke Portrait by Trilby Kent
Rich, Girl, Poor Girl by Leslie Lokko
Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn
Trespass by Rose Tremain
Figure in Silk by Vanora Bennett
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard
A Lifetime Burning by Linda Gillard
The Five People you Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Alfred and Emily by Doris Lessing
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
Far Cry by John Harvey
Good at Games by Jill Mansell
Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay
The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths
Started early,took my dog by Kate Atkinson
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
A Hidden Affair by Pam Jenoff
The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths
The Hummingbird and the Bear by Nicholas Hogg
The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths
The Private Patient by P D James
The Passages of Hermann Melville by Jay Parini
Tatty by Christine Dwyer Hickey
Happy ever After by Nora Roberts
Auriel Rising by Elizabeth Redfern
Room by Emma Donoghue
Henrietta Lightfoot by Hallie Rubenhold
Dog Boy by Eva Hornug
Secreets of the Tudor Court by Darcey Bonnett
Sea Swept by Nora Roberts
Dark side by Belinda Bauer
The House of Silence by Linda Gillard
The Secrets of St Dee by Victoria Routledge
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick
We all rain into the sunlight by Natalie Young
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
The Innocent by Posie Graeme Evans
The Exiled by Posie Graeme Evans
Restitution by Eliza Graham
Blue Monday by Nicci French
Crimson China by Betsy Tobin
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf
The Hand that first held mine by Maggie O'Farrell
The King's daughter by Sandra Worth
The Gallows Curse by Karen Maitland
Prince by Rory Clements
The Forgotten Legion by Ben Kane
Belle by Lesley Pearse
The Beach Hut by Veronica Henry
That Summer Affair by Sarah Challis
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Missing you By Louise Douglas
Broken by Karin Slaughter
Too Close to Home by Linwood Barclay
The Burning by Jane Casey
Letters from Home by Kristina McMorris
Agent 6 by Tom Rb Smith
Private Lives by Tasmina Perry
Pride and Premiership by Michelle Gale
At the King's Command by Susan Wiggs
The Maiden's Hand by Susan Wiggs
Juliet by Anne Fortier
Catching the Tide by Judith Lennox
Deliverance from Evil by Frances Hill
Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington
The Stonehenge Legacy by Sam Christer
Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper
That's Another Story by Julie Walters
Florence and Giles by John Harding
The Absolutist by John Boyne
Thye Screts between Us by Louise Douglas
Sisters by Rosamund Lupton
The Midwife's Confession by Diane Chamberlain
The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C W Gortner
Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts
Trick of the Dark by Val McDermid
The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield
Birthright  by Nora Roberts
Blow on a Dead Man's Embers by Mari Strachan
Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon
The Rose Garden y Susanna Kearsley
Caligula by Douglas Preston
The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark
In  A True Light by John Harvey
Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M C Beaton
The Girl who chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
Untying the Knot by Linda Gillard
A Means of Escape by Joanna Price
13 Rue Therese by Elana Mauli Shapiro
Silk by Alexandrio Baccia
The Obscure Logic of the Heart by Priya Basil
The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell
A Winter Ballad by Barbara Samule
Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton
The Leopard Unleashed by Elizabeth Chadwick
Crippen by John Boyne
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson
Now You see Me by S J Bolton
The Dressmaker by Posie Graeme Evans
The Legacy by Katherine Webb
The Painted Lady by Maeve Haran
The Christmas Angel By Marcia Willet
The Haunting by Alan Titchmarsh
A Brief History of Britain 1066-1485 by Nicholas Vincent
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Fallen Angels by Tara Hyland
The Promise by Susan Sallis
Blood Brothers by Josephine Cox
The Collaborator by Margaret Leroy
Warhorse by Michael Morpurgo
Sing you Home by Jodi Picoult
31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan
The Other Family by Jaonna Trollope
The Accident by Linwood Barclay
The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon
Goodnight Lady by Martina Cole
The Clerkenwell Tales by Peter Ackroyd
A Mother's Gift by Maggie Hope
The Harlot's Press by Helen Pike
The River House by Margaret Leroy
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The 12 days of Christmas by Trisha Astley
A Gathering Storm by Rachael Hore.

Here are my reviews of my favourite books of the Year:

A Lifetime Burning by Linda Gillard -

A Lifetime Burning

This is a powerful and emotional look at families and sibling relationships and the darker undercurrents that can so easily be glossed over. Linda Gillard is never afraid to be different - her books don't conform to the norm but they are always a darn good read.
This is the sort of book that makes me rejoice in the written word - I loved it.

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

The Crossing Places (Ruth Galloway, #1)

This is the first in a series of books featuring forensic archaeologist, Ruth Galloway. When bones are discovered on the Norfolk coast, Ruth is called in to help determine the age of the bones. This introduces her to DCI Harry Nelson who is the policeman leading the investigation. The discovery of these ancient bones leads to the Ruth's involvement in a current police investigation.

The Norfolk coast is beautifully stark and its involvement in the story is evocative and atmospheric.

Room by Emma Donoghue


If I could give this book more stars I would - sometimes a book comes along that just blows every other book out of the water - this is one such book. Probably my read of 2011, unless something remarkable comes along in the next few months.

Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick

Lady of the English

This is a meticulously researched historical novel with great insight into both female lead characters. Elizabeth Chadwick has cleverly juxtaposed the lives of these two fascinating women, and brought the medieval world to life in such a believable way, that you feel the tension and experience the struggle, not just for supremacy, but for survival. To be a woman in a medieval world was to be subjected to the whim of men – and only the strongest women made a difference.

The Gallows Curse by Karen Maitland

The Gallows Curse

Set in the Norfolk marshes with more than enough Gothic gloom to feed the soul, the dark and dirty 13C is brought gloriously to life in this third novel by Karen Maitland. Beautifully crafted from the beginning, and teeming with superstition, this story transports you back to the brutal days in our history, when dark and Godless forces roamed freely, and violent crimes were accepted without question.

I have total admiration for an author who can recreate a world so entirely that as you read, you can feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and when you are forced back to the 21C ,the smell of wood smoke still lingers in the air, and you can almost imagine you are still there...... 

Missing You by Louise Douglas

Missing You

Vulnerable Fen comes with the burden of carried secrets, and yet is a wonderfully supportive mother to her damaged child. When an equally damaged Sean enters her life , Fen is overcome with desire for him but allows him the time and space to find her in his own way. This beautifully written story of love, loss and the power of redemption captures the intricacies of relationships with extraordinary perception.

The Absolutist by John Boyne

The Absolutist

From the start of The Absolutist, I was engrossed in Tristan and Will's story, and found myself really hurrying the pages to see what happened next.
The description of the time in the trenches is poignant, desperately sad, and hugely horrific, but never without tender philosophy.I loved both characters, and wanted everything to work out for them - but like all those who fought and died in the Great war, nothing will ever be the same again.
John Boyne is a master storyteller, who manages in a few short sentences to convey a complete world, and a time and place that really exists in your subconscious, with characters that come to life, and who live on in your memory, long after the last page is turned.

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

The Sandalwood Tree

Like a jewel in India’s crown, this beautifully written historical novel layers together a multifaceted story of love, loss, hope and redemption.From the beginning of this book I was enchanted with the sights, sounds and smells of India; all are beautifully described, and perfectly represent time and place. The switch between the dual time elements is seamless and absorbing, as both stories capture the imagination perfectly. The history of India is explained with great precision and empathy, and whilst the politics is complicated and shocking, nothing is allowed to detract from the stark beauty of this troubled landscape.
I was saddened to learn that Elle Newmark died in July 2011, her exceptional writing talent will be sadly missed.

Before I go to Sleep by S J Watson

Before I Go To Sleep

This tense psychological thriller grips you from the opening page and takes you on a roller-coaster of a ride until its thrilling conclusions.
Christine has severe amnesia, when she wakes everyday she needs to be reminded of her life, her cherished memories have been wiped out, and nothing of what she holds dear remains in her mind for more than a few minutes. When she is encouraged to record her limited memories in a journal, she begins to doubt everything she has been told by her husband.
What scared me about this book is how easily it could happen - and just how precious are our memories. 

The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell

The Darling Strumpet

This book is a beautifully written, and lively romp through Restoration England. Gillian Bagwell has captured the very essence of the period with a charm and wit that keeps you turning the pages.
It's saucy and sexually explicit throughout, but overall the humour and the sheer joie de vivre emphasises the utter glory of being alive and young in one of the most glittering of Royal courts. 


The Secrets Between Us by Louise Douglas

The Secrets Between Us

Reminiscent of the Gothic splendour of a modern day Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, I thought that this was a really accomplished novel. Louise Douglas certainly knows how to write a good story and involves the reader in an imaginative and consuming way. The plot is twisted and convoluted right to the very end, and yet is beautifully atmospheric, with some genuinely creepy moments. The characterisation is subtle, and yet all consuming as we begin genuinely to care for Alexander who is flawed and vulnerable, Jamie who is damaged and precocious, and Sarah, who whilst fighting her own demons, must try and keep this family together.

The Secrets between Us is a haunting and passionate love story, which will entertain and keep you guessing from the opening page.

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

Homespun America in 1950’s is beautifully described in this accomplished debut novel which interweaves the lives of the Lake and Moses family. Samuel Lake is a preacher without a congregation and without any hope of a ministry of his own he is forced to return to his wife’s family farm in Arkansas with his eccentrically named offspring. Of his three children, it is eleven year old Swan Lake who is the formidable ringleader, who is tomboy enough to run wild through the rural landscape, and yet has a heart bigger than the Arkansas sky.
Reminiscent of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird, this emotionally charged book reveals a story that is at times dark and dirty, and yet has a theme of faith, and family that transcends pure evil. There is an abundance of rich and varied characters who bring the story to life, from grandmother Calla who tends her flowers, and dispenses wholesome wisdom, through to the bravery of Uncle Toy who keeps the bar at ‘Never Closes’, and who loves the Lake children as he would his own.
I stayed up late and long in order to finish reading this story, it made me laugh, it made me cry and ultimately, it made me believe in the power of storytelling.
This is storytelling at its absolute best, and I would recommend this novel wholeheartedly to my book group. If I could give it more than five stars I would do so without hesitation.

Warhorse by Michael Morpurgo


Primarily, Warhorse is a book for young adults, however, this is one of those stories that easily crosses the great divide as it slips into an adult read quite seamlessly.
Joey doesn't get off to the best of starts when he taken away from his young master. and forced to serve as a war horse during the worst battles of WW1.
During WW1 the life of an infantry horse was fraught with danger, Michael Morpurgo conveys this story in beautiful writing, which conjures the horror, depredation, and sheer waste of life, in such a strong and meaningful way.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches

Research historian Diana Bishop is a witch from a long line of esteemed witches, and yet she refuses to use her skills. Whilst researching ancient documents in Oxford's Bodleian Library, she unwittingly unleashes the power of Ashmole782 an ancient alchemical manuscript. But once unleashed, the catalytic effect of this ancient document will turn Diana's well ordered life upside down.
Meticulously researched, Deborah Harkness has created a world within a world, which is believable and utterly compelling to read.

Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon

Lord John and the Scottish Prisoner (Lord John Grey, #3)

Diana Gabaldon's skill as a writer turns this adventure story into a series of violent escapades, from sword fights and treachery, to pistols at dawn, but throughout the narrative, she blends quite seamlessly the story of two very different men, forced together by circumstances, and whose shared history creates more questions than it does answers.

For me this book worked on several levels. As a continuation of the Lord John books, the story was a well thought out adventure, both fast and furious in equal measure, and a commendable continuation of the Lord John catalogue. On the other hand, as a fully paid up member of the Jamie Fraser appreciation society, this book allowed a rare glimpse into Jamie's hidden time at Helswater, where the loss of his beloved wife Claire runs like a silken thread throughout the narrative,and as ever his love and need of her is palpable and painful. His constant prayer that she and their child be safe, is heart breaking, and utterly believable. On a lighter note, his burgeoning relationship with his son William is a joyful glimpse into Jamie's role as protector, teacher and fatherly mentor.

A very big Thank you  to all those talented authors 

who have fired my imagination with their written word.

Here's to more great books in 2012....and a very happy New Year to you all...

Friday 30 December 2011

Day 30 of the 30 day book talk..

Thanks so much if you've managed to stay with us for the whole of the 30 day book talk - jaffa and appreciate all your views and comments. We've really enjoyed putting our bookish thoughts into such a fascinating challenge.

Favourite Book of All Time

By now you all know what my favourite book of all time will be - Outlander by Diana's the one book I would want with me if I was marooned on a desert island...

Thankfully due to the skill of this talented author , the story continues....

jaffa's choice

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

Who could resist this little face


this little face.....

Happy reading

Thursday 29 December 2011

Day 29 of the 30 day book talk

A Book everyone hated but you liked.

I think hated is rather a strong word for my book choice, but this book certainly divided opinion - it's a Marmite book , you were either in the' loved it', or 'hated it' camp - but when it won the 2009 Man Booker prize my interest in it was vindicated ...

Wolf Hall

This ambitious reworking of Thomas Cromwell's story, detailed not only his rise to power during the reign of Henry VIII, but also explained the humble origin, and volatile upbringing of this dangerously influential statesman.
Thomas Cromwell became the most instrumental political figure of his generation, he was largely responsible for the papal reform of England, and the subsequent break with Rome. Always the power behind Henry's throne,  Cromwell's plotting behind the scenes resulted in both the downfall of Anne Boleyn in 1536, and the failure of Henry's disastrous fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves in 1540. 
Thomas Cromwell was executed for treason in July 1540 - there would be few who mourned his passing.

Hilary Mantel's novel captures the essence of this dangerous time, meticulously researched, the Tudor court is seen as a living breathing hotch potch of disharmony and chaos, and where the ever present threat of danger and corruption, is never far away...

Wolf Hall's sequel Bring up the Bodies is due for publication in  May 2012 - it's already on my wishlist....

jaffa's choice

Marley and Me by John Grogan

Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog

A book about the world's most lovable dog doesn't feature too highly on many feline reading lists - but I enjoyed this one ...and Marley has such a cute expression.......

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Day 28 of the 30 day book talk...

Favourite Titles

I'm always in awe of authors, or publishers who come up with the most amazing book titles....

With bookshelves groaning under the weight of unread books, to have that one book title that literally jumps off the shelf and which screams "READ ME "is such a superb marketing tool....

These are some of the more interesting book titles from my bookshelves:

Product Details

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Day 27 of the 30 day book talk...

The most surprising plot twist or ending

Before I Go to Sleep

 by S J Watson

Before I Go To Sleep

I'm not going to tell you what the surprise is in case you haven't read this, because that would spoil this fabulous book for you , so I urge you to read it for yourself -

 It's one of my books of the year...

Jaffa's choice

The Cat That Walked by Himself

This story from the beloved 1902 Just So stories by Rudyard Kipling proves that the cat will always be true to himself, and will go his own way.

Don't ever be surprised what cats can do.....

If you want to read Rudyard Kipling's story - you'll find it here for free at Project Gutenberg

Monday 26 December 2011

Day 26 of the 30 day book talk

A Book that has changed your opinion about something

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns

This stunning book reminded me that some women do not have the easy life that I am privileged to enjoy and that the power of good literature can shake your world and make you appreciate all that you have.....
Bold and complex, this novels slaps you in the face, and delivers the message that to struggle against adversity is not a sign of weakness, but of overwhelming pride.

Great books have the power to make a difference ; this is one of them.

jaffa's choice

Product Details

This book reminded me of how brave horses are, and how we used to depend on them so much.
Horses are my friend.....

Sunday 25 December 2011

Day 25 of the 30 day book talk

A character you can relate to the most

The one character I would like to relate to the most is Claire Beauchamp Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.
She's a 20th century nurse who is transported back in time to 18th century Scotland,  and has a fraught but very interesting life with Scottish highlander, Jamie Fraser.

Jaffa's Choice

Normal service from jaffa will be resumed........

Wishing you a Merry Christmas....

Jaffa and I wish all our friends
Happy and Bright 

Saturday 24 December 2011

Day 24 of the 30 day book talk

A book you wish more people would have read

My choice is a quiet little book, primarily aimed at young adults, but in my opinion anything written by Michael Morpurgo crosses the great divide into adult fiction. It's also one of those books I think should be on the national curriculum...maybe it already is....

Private Peaceful

This is a stunning little book , with a story so sad it, will break your heart into a million little pieces.....

Jaffa's choice

When Cats Turn Bad

Be afraid very afraid !