On the Bookshelf – July

Okay, it’s time for my monthly book round-up. Without any faffing about, here goes:

Can’t Stop The Feeling and Can’t Buy Me Love, by Janet Elizabeth Henderson

Henderson, a Kiwi author, writes classic romcom set mostly in Scotland. Her novels are always a fun read, and these were no exception to that particular rule.

The Museum of Forgotten Memories by Anstey Harris

I adored Harris’ previous book, The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton – in fact, it was one of my top reads of 2019 – and had been looking forward to this one.

To be honest, while I can tell you what this story is about, I don’t really know that I can say what it’s really about – a fine but important difference. Harris says that it’s about the human condition, and I suppose that it is.

While I’m not one for literary novels or unnecessary words, this is really quite beautiful and understated, gentle almost. It’s bleak and hopeful and light and dark all at the same time, and I really loved it. 

My favourite read for the month.

Eating Eternity – Food, Art and Literature in France, by John Baxter

A series of short chapters written in Baxter’s usual storytelling style – he has this ability to make you feel as though you’re sharing a wine or a walk with him and he’s sharing gossip. It’s what brings me back to his books every time. Anyways, in this one Baxter ties art, culture, and history into the story of French cuisine and the evolution of French restaurants.

I inhaled this on the flight to Cairns.

Letters From The Past, by Erica James

Okay, I was a tad confused by this one at first – I hadn’t realised it was a sequel – but soon settled in for the tale. Erica James is an auto-buy author for me, but I don’t feel as though this was one of her best. Having said that it was still reliably good, completely enjoyable, and I demolished it over a flight.

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

This was an accidental purchase in Port Douglas the other week. Sarah had to do a zoom call for a briefing for uni and the café we found to sit in just happened to be out the front of a bookshop. Naturally I didn’t feel right about sitting there for an hour and only ordering tea (me) and an iced latte (Sarah) so I bought a book.

The premise of this is a good one. Seventy-five year-old artist Julian is lonely – something he admits in a green notebook entitled The Authenticity Project. He leaves it in Monica’s café. She too is putting a smile over her biggest secret – she desperately wants a family. She writes in the green notebook and leaves it where someone else will find it. And so on. The notebook brings all these strangers together.

There were parts where I felt the narrative and the pacing was a tad off (listen to me talking about things like narrative and pacing), but on the whole it was a light and enjoyable read. Some of the characters weren’t as developed as they could be, and some of their stories were less finished than I might have liked them to be, but that didn’t really bother me. A cozy redemption read.

Maggie’s Going Nowhere by Rose Hartley

This is a difficult one – I’ve read so many good things about this book that I wanted to love this or at least like it, but the truth is I spent so much time disliking Maggie that I found it difficult to enjoy the story. Yes, I get that characters need to be flawed in order to come back from whatever they need to come back from,  but I had real difficulties with Maggie.

Then there was the Op Shop angle. I happen to know a little about these and how they operate and the volunteer system and at first it felt like Hartley was (sorry Mum) taking the piss out of them. It wasn’t until about three-quarters through the book that I settled down on that front and decided that her intentions were coming from the right angle – which is also at about the same time that I decided Maggie was worth worrying about.

I deliberately haven’t rated it on Goodreads because I don’t know how I feel about it. Would I read it again? No. Would other people like it? Probably. To be honest, I think this says more about me than the author, so I’ll leave it there.


The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlebben, read by Mike Grady.

This one has been languishing in the “to be read” pile on my kindle for so long that I can’t remember why I bought it in the first place. I suspect that I heard a podcast, or something. Anyways, because I already had the kindle version, I got the Audible version for something like $1.

Anyways, this is fascinating, really fascinating. I had no idea that trees have such a complex familial and support structure (no pun intended) and method of communication – especially when grown wild in a wood. It’s something that trees which are farmed or on their own don’t have.

The idea that trees have a sort of social interaction, a way of warning each other, and a forest etiquette of sorts – and yes, there is science to back this up – is (again no pun intended) ground-breaking stuff.

As interesting as the subject was, I found the narration to be a tad, shall we say, soporific. While my eyes might have glazed over from time to time, I’ll never look at a tree or trees in a forest in the same way again. Wood wide web indeed.

Bonkers by Jennifer Saunders, read by Jennifer Saunders

This is, quite simply, absolutely fabulous. Did you see what I did there?

Seriously though, this is laugh out loud funny. I think I would have loved it even if I wasn’t a fan of Absolutely Fabulous or the work she did with Dawn French, or any of the hilarious stuff she’s done with Comic Relief in the UK. 

This book made me annoyed when the rain set in last week and I didn’t get my afternoon walks in – it made me want to go out anyway. I loved it…(I already said that, didn’t I?)

What have you been reading this month?

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

11 thoughts

  1. So much goodness! I’ve heard so many good things about The Museum of Forgotten Memories. I just finished Mike Gayle’s new book All The Lonely People which was as I expected fabulous but still quite different from his other books. Prior to that was Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan (part of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy) but truth be told I haven’t read nearly as much as I would have liked this month. Sigh!

  2. I love book recommendations so thank you! Based on what you wrote, I think I’d like The Museum of Forgotten Memories so I’ll put it on my library list. The Hidden Life of Trees is already on my list so now I’m even more anxious to read it.

    1. Janis, I was astounded by the trees. It seems that every second thing I read or hear about at the moment involves trees or forest bathing and it truly is a thing. Happy reading.

  3. Thanks Jo, I always enjoy your reviews as they are honest and real. I had heard about the Hidden Life of Trees from someone else so that could be a contender. I’m still working my way through Phosphorescence!

  4. Hi, Jo – I still can’t figure out how you do it all. You read extensively, write extensively, bake extensively, blog regularly, have a family life and a day job. I really need to know your secret.
    The second thing that I cannot figure out is how a certain cocker spaniel managed to sneak his way into every single photo! 😀
    Thank you for these recommendations.

  5. Thanks Jo, I will put the Hidden Life of Trees on my ever growing list. Love the inclusions of the your furry family member 🙂 They are never far from you especially near dinner time.

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