Book Connections

Books Read from my Shelf in July

I’m aiming this year – 2022, to read five books of my print shelf each month, and I have already achieved that for July.  Three were from 2022, one from 2021 and one from 2018.

NightworkAbout one quarter of the way through Nightwork I was ready to fire this book into the “get rid of pile” and concede I’d made a buying mistake. A hero who is a thief just didn’t wash with me.

But Its Nora Roberts! Plus at this point I read Debbie’s review at The Reading Frenzy and that sort of encouraged me.

And within a few more lines I was hooked. The plot turned a little, I became more involved with the characters and I increasingly liked this thief. And what a gifted one at that. Only 4.5 stars though for giving me a “poor start.” Which probably says more about me the reader than the book, but there you are!

book coverI so wanted to love it, but Out of the Clear Blue Sky did not provide me with the reading I desired. Everything is going down the drain and very little of it is uplifting. The main character Lillie is a hot mess of a victim who does some downright retaliative mean and nasty things. I think they were meant to be funny but I thought they were so sad. Melissa the “other woman” has very little going for her, although there is a little hope she might improve. Lillie is a homemaker for sure and I guess she and Ben will one day be a great pair, but we just had to read and read all the whiny victim stuff. KH has been up until now an automatic buy, now I will most likely read the next one, but will be via the library. And hubby? Well what. a wet blanket! Best characters – the dogs! Cover does not relate to the book at all.  2.75 stars.

book coverBirds of a Feather by Australian author Tricia Stringer drew me in well at the beginning and then ensnared me in the day to day lives of three women. One in her seventies, one mid life and one the mother of two young children. They find themselves together and slowly some sincere and important relationships are formed. As well as that each of the three share and come to terms with what has been eating at them from the past and enables them to embrace their futures.  4 stars

A delightful book, With Love From London was one that is both full of love and loss, so both heart warming and tinged always with a sense of sadness. If only relationships could have worked out perfectly, but no. However what lasts, lasts and in a way in the end love wins. Plus a charming bookstore, books loved and a bookstore cat. Good reading.  4.25 stars.

book coverAn enjoyable story set in Scotland and involving a manor and a teashop and some fun characters. It has family and romance and new beginnings, nicely told, warm and cozy. The cover is especially delicious and does match the book! 3.75 stars.



It’s Monday! What are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a place to meet up and share what you have been, and are about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organise yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment and er… add to your groaning TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started on J Kaye’s blog and then was hosted by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn here at The Book Date.
Jen Vincent, Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee of Unleashing Readers decided to give It’s Monday! a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels or anything in those genres – join them.

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Well its Monday, and a dull overcast day with threat of rain and wind to come. We did get some sunshine during the week here and there which was gobbled up! One day I picked up a friend in the city and we went around to our favourite chip shop in Eastbourne to collect oysters and scallops and chips. It was too windy and cold to get out of the car but we parked by the sea and that was great. Plus no scavenging seagulls!

What I read last week:

An Island Wedding was an audiobook that I had been listening to for some time, and I loved it. Other books will get reviews of some sort in time.

What I am reading now:

I picked up a book off my TBR that I bought on a whim when in the bookshop in 2018. Making progress on those shelves.  Not far in but set in Scotland which is always a plus.

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I am listening to The Summer Scoop

A  novella from the Eternity Springs series.

The Summer Melt

Up next:

A library book came in so that’s up next.  Finally our library did away with fines and followed many other libraries that do that overseas. I don’t usually get fines but I know one niece it will bring back to the library!

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Book Connections

First Five Books Bought in 2022

This year I have decided to read three books from my actual TBR print shelf before I can buy another.  Or to  remove three to send on, because I know I’ll never get to read them. So slowly beginning to buy. I have on my shelf a number of #1 in  a series books, but mostly steering clear of them in case I want to buy the next one!

book coverI bought this first because I heard Meredith on the podcast Currently Reading talking about it. To get there I’ll need to read the first. I believe there is violence in it here and there but I am pretty good at skipping bits like that!

book coverI read and liked the trilogy by Philip Pullman and thought I might like to do a reread at some point this year. It seemed a good bargain to buy the three books together in one hardback version. Last time I read the trilogy I got the books from the library.

The Becoming

I read the first one in this trilogy a little while ago and loved it. So of course I had to buy the next one. I haven’t read it, but it won’t be long before. When I feel like I need a really good book I’ll choose it.

Nothing to Fear This is the next book in the romantic suspense series I am reading. I have read many of the later books but not the earlier books and so this year that’s one of the reading goals. I found I didn’t have this book so wanted to buy it so could read on in order!

With Love from London And finally With Love From London by Sarah Jio. This is a 2022 book, the first one I have from this year.

So two of these were on my initial book buy list, With Love From London and Court of Thorn and Roses.  Of the other three I pre-ordered one for audiobook, and two from the library.

So soon time to make a possible new buy book list! In the next few months lots of books are publishing.


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Books on my Buy List

While I am wanting to cut back on my buying – I will still buy some, one for each three I read off my shelf! I have already read the first three, so naturally I am thinking of what I might buy to read.

A Place to Hang the MoonThis is a middle grade book – historical fiction.  I heard about it on the Currently Reading podcast. It was one of Meredith’s favourite books of 2021. Children in London are sent to the country, but unbeknown to the adults they are looking for a forever home. Meredith described it as a “swing up” book, it starts of hard but moves to sweet and is heart warming.

I can only get it in hardback at the moment so might wait to mid year to the paper back comes out. And I might cave and buy the hardback!

A court of thorns and roses

They also discussed this series by Sarah J. Maas.  The third book was the one Meredith loved but I’d have to go back to the beginning of the series so I think I will.

The advantage of this book is that it has been out for awhile and I should be able to buy it locally. So it may be my first buy or close to it.

With Love from London
Well I haven’t read a Sarah Jio book for awhile and seemingly this should publish in February.  It is set in London and includes a bookshop and a woman who needs to start over.

This will be an early buy too.

The Wedding Veil

The latest book from Kristy Woodson Harvey that is to publish at the end of March so that is well in my sights for the first quarter of the year.

It has to do with a wedding veil and four generations of women linked by it.

The Sweet Taste of MuscadinesThe Sweet Taste of Muscadines was on my radar last year, but at $52 for the hardback I decided I needed to wait for the paperback and I see that should be out in early March so this will have a place in this planning list as well.

It has some really good responses to it – a debut novel. Women’s fiction with some mystery and suspense.

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Always. Sarah Jio

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Published: Random House – Ballantine
Date: 7th February 2017
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 240
Genre: Contemporary Ficiton
Source:Publisher via NetGalley
4 stars                       Add to Goodreads

While enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with her fiance, Ryan, at one of Seattle’s chicest restaurants, Kailey Crane can’t believe her good fortune: She has a great job as a writer for the Herald and is now engaged to a guy who is perfect in nearly every way. As they leave the restaurant, Kailey spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister.

When Kailey met Cade ten years ago, their attraction was immediate and intense everything connected and felt “right.” But it all ended suddenly, leaving Kailey devastated. Now the poor soul on the street is a faded version of her former beloved: His weathered and weary face is as handsome as Kailey remembers, but his mind has suffered in the intervening years. Over the next few weeks, Kailey helps Cade begin to piece his life together, something she initially keeps from Ryan. As she revisits her long-ago relationship, Kailey realizes that she must decide exactly what and whom she wants.

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Always by Sarah Jio was a book I read through quickly because I needed to know what happened. In 2008 we have Kailey and Ryan, much in love and a really nice couple. She is a journalist and he is a big time wealthy developer.  They are perfect in every way except that their values seem to be somewhat misaligned. 
One day Kailey sees a homeless guy outside a restaurant and she gives him the food in her hand. When their eyes meet she recognises him and we are taken back to 1996 to the time when it was Kailey and Cade who were very much in love. So what has gone wrong? How did Cade a musical genius in terms of spotting the next great band and wealthy in his own right reach the place he is in now?  The element of mystery held me… wanting to know more.
Kailey has been for a long time interested in the homeless and has fought through her journalism to have their plight and rights recognised. And soon this is even more important to her as she seeks to find out what has happened. She begins a fight to help him regain his health and his rights.
I was most interested in the 2008 part because that was where the now was. The 1996 part that is woven into the story filled in the backstory of Kailey and Cade.  And they had been a perfect couple.
It is an emotional story of love. I really felt for Ryan as he was a good guy and he was in danger of losing someone precious to him. But Kailey and Cade had had that too and more. So in the end the ending was a little bittersweet.
I felt things wrapped up a little to easily and tidily, there were aspects of the story I would have liked to have been developed a little more but to discuss them would be to give the plot away. So I’ll leave you to read and enjoy it as I did.
Quote from Always.

The Violets of March. Sarah Jio

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The Violets of March
Sarah Jio
Published: Listen and Live Audio
Date: 2011
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Lyssa Browne
Length: 9hr 22min
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Own book.

In her 20s, Emily Watson was on top of the world: she had a best-selling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.

Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily’s good fortune.

So when her great-Aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.

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I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook – The Violets of March, the debut novel of Sarah Jio.  Set in the contemporary world it reaches back to the past via the diary by Esther that Emily finds and reads over a number of days in March.  How did the diary happen to be in the bedroom that Emily stays in while with Aunt Bee?  Well someone has placed it there for her to read, but it is a mystery until the very end as who it might be.
I loved Aunt Bee and Evelyn her friend.  The way the narrator used her voice for them just made this book so much more enjoyable for me and in the end once I started listening to it, I had completed it in a few days.  As well there are other older identities still living in Bainbridge who were alive during the 1940’s where this story began.
Emily has never been able to replicate her successful novel and has never really written since. Her marriage has been shattered by infidelity – a theme running through this book, so if it gets you hot under the collar, its better most likely not to read it.  In Bainbridge she meets  Jack, the grandson of Elliot who loved Esther long ago. It is Jack that attracts Emily and their relationship plays out in the book. 
As Emily reads the journal, and stays with her Aunt Bee she has time to heal and see life differently.  In fact she will never be the same again as slowly people and the mysteries of the past start to clarify and she tracks the story to the end.  Right up until it is time for a new story and a new beginning.
I loved the older characters, the setting and the mystery.  I thought the narrator was well suited to the book and it is her interpretation that added to my enjoyment.
4 stars

Goodnight June. Sarah Jio

Goodnight June

Goodnight June
Sarah Jio
Publisher: Penguin group. Plume
Date: May 27th 2014
Format: e ARC
Pages: 320
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Goodnight Moon is an adored childhood classic, but its real origins are lost to history. In Goodnight June,Sarah Jio offers a suspenseful and heartfelt take on how the “great green room” might have come to be.

June Andersen is professionally successful, but her personal life is marred by unhappiness. Unexpectedly, she is called to settle her great-aunt Ruby’s estate and determine the fate of Bluebird Books, the children’s bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store’s papers, June stumbles upon letters between her great-aunt and the late Margaret Wise Brown—and steps into the pages of American literature.

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My thoughts
I love books and any book lover will I believe be swept away by this nostalgic look back at an era that has passed, yet still holds meaning for many.  That era when a children’s bookstore opened up the magic door to reading for so many child readers.  Of course today with internet trading and only the bigger book stores remaining in business, it is not very likely you’ll come across the children’s bookstore of yesteryear.
Bluebird bookstore in Seattle was such a shop, run by June’s aunt, Ruby.  For many years it has warmed the hearts of children, but now it has become neglected.  June returns to Seattle from New York to wrap up the estate she has been left.  She works for a bank in New York and is an expert in going in and taking over and wrapping up any business that can’t meet its payments.  However she works long hours and her health is suffering. 
She finds letters as she tidies up.  They are letters between her Aunt Ruby and Margaret Wise Brown, a well known children’s author.  Sarah Jio has asked herself what if…. and let her imagination go.  The Bluebird bookstore is a replica of the room in Goodnight Moon, written by A W Brown.  Part of the story is told through the letters that are found at regular intervals.
Meanwhile June goes about her daily life, meeting up with Gavin who runs a restaurant next door and a relationship begins to develop.  This relationship is supportive and Gavin plays an important role in helping June to make decisions about her life and the bookstore.
There is a strong theme of friendship throughout the book, the friendship of Ruby and Margaret, the true friends of June and local people who loved Ruby.  Then there is the relationship of sisters, Both Ruby and Margaret have issues and June has her own issue with her sister that she struggles with, through to its heartbreaking yet joyous culmination.  
There are a few mysteries weaving their way through out the book.  What is the meaning of a car that slowly drives past the bookstore and takes photos, and why would someone break into the bookstore.  The biggest mystery – where is the baby that was adopted out many years ago? 
I thoroughly enjoyed this story, although I did think that everything was a little too tidy at the end of it, however the whole story was a wonderful idea and I was prepared to overlook it.  As a child I was entertained by the stories of M W Brown, she was every bit as important as a writer of literary works.  Authors who hook children into the magical world of books and into being life long readers are right up there. 
4.5 stars

Review: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

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Blackberry Winter
Sarah Jio
Published: Plume (Penguin) 2012
Format: Paperback 286 pages
Genre: Historical/Contemporary
Source: Own book

Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May-Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face-down on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the perpetrator’s.

Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge, assigned to cover the May 1 “blackberry winter” storm and its twin, learns of the unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth. In the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected ways…

My thoughts
This is a dual narrative book, partly set back in the 1930’s and partly set in the present day.  Vera is struggling in the Depression, she must leave her child alone while she goes out to work. My heart went out to Vera, a wonderful mother who deeply loved her child.  Her life is juxtaposed with the rich who seemingly have no care for those less fortunate.

Claire too has lost a child, when she is assigned to the “blackberry winter” story, she feels a deep connection, that sparks her back into life, after an incredibly hard year. Her relationship with her husband is faltering, the stress of losing a child has driven them apart.  Ethan and Claire love one another, but will their marriage survive this deep grief?

This story is a mystery, as the reader is not given all the clues as the story opens.  We don’t even know how Claire and Ethan lost their child.  Slowly piece by piece the story is revealed.  Each little clue is significant.  The first clue I picked up was that the Seattle Herald did not publish the story of the lost child in 1933.  Slowly all is revealed, the pieces come together to a very bittersweet conclusion.  It was satisfying, but I needed to reach for the tissues!

Beautifully written, very compassionate towards parents who lose children, helping those of us who haven’t to feel some of the heartbreak such parents experience.  I will be reading more of Sarah Jio’s novels.

5 stars