What’s On Your Bookshelf?

Here we are, halfway through September and I still haven’t told you about what I read in August. So, without further ado, welcome to August on my bookshelf.

Just Murdered (Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries #1) by Katherine Kovacic

I’m a massive fan of Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher murder mysteries and loved the TV series. While I was very excited to watch the spinoff Miss Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries when it was on telly a couple of years ago, it didn’t feel quite the same, and I could never put my finger on why. Trying too hard perhaps? 

When I heard that Katherine Kovacic was writing the novel to go with the first of these screenplays, I wasn’t sure what to think. I inhaled her Alex Clayton art history mysteries, but what would she do with someone else’s work? The answer is, she improved on it. 

A great read – and my favourite of the month.  

The Life I Was Meant To Live, by Julian Sandrell

Set in Paris and the south of France, the blurb reads:

Thirty-nine-year-old Romane is a doctor and hypochondriac. Her usually uneventful life changes when one of her patients insists that she saw Romane coming out of a hospital in Marseille, looking very ill. But Romane is perfectly healthy and has never stepped foot in Marseille. So who did her patient see?

Romane sets off for the south of France, determined to uncover the mystery of her lookalike. Her investigation leads her to Juliette, a bookseller in Avignon. When the two women meet it soon becomes clear they are twins. But how is it possible that neither of them knew of each other’s existence? What secrets have their families been keeping? On their search for the truth the two sisters embark on an astonishing journey filled with both pain and joy.

This was a difficult book to categorise for me – and by that, please don’t take that to mean I didn’t enjoy it, because I did. I just found it difficult to pigeonhole. There was also a twist at the end which I absolutely didn’t see coming.

Paper Hearts & Summer Kisses, by Carole Matthews

Okay, I’m a Carole Matthews fan so I was always going to grab this from the library when I saw it. Then there was the crafting. It reminded me of my scrapbooking and card making days and the fortunes I spent in crafting shops on supplies, the hours I spent crafting with friends, the dreams I had of one day being published in the top US crafting mags and having my own range of stock. A girl can dream, right? Anyways, it took me back to those days and I loved it. It was the perfect antidote to a difficult week in the day job.

The Comfort Book, by Matt Haig

To say I loved this would be an understatement. In fact, I wrote an entire review on it – which you can find here.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne  Bronte

I struggled for words to describe this one.

My book club is working our way through the Bronte sisters novels and this was our 4th – and the 2nd by Anne. To say it’s an early feminist work is to undersell it. To say it’s irrelevant in today’s world is to misunderstand it. In fact, that’s what I found so powerful and what has stayed with me – the way in which this story is so completely relevant.

Even now 173 years after it was first published. Plus ça change and all of that. There are scenes in the book that I can’t get out of my head, that play behind my eyes like a movie I can’t look away from even though I want to. Did I enjoy it? No. Am I glad I read it? Absolutely. Will it stay with me? Absolutely. Reading this book has raised so many emotions and I can completely understand why it was deemed so shocking back then. The message is no less shocking today.

Roast Chicken and other stories, by Simon Hopkinson

I read a statistic once about how many cookbooks are published each year – to which my husband replied that I’d probably purchased most of them. So. Not. True. This one though, first published in 1995, comes with the claim of “the most useful cookbook of all time” as voted by Waitrose Food Illustrated.

Anyone who’s anyone in the food writing game seems to agree. Nigella, too, swoons over it in this article for Observer Food Monthly, and Jay Rayner in this article does too:

And then there’s the best cookbook title of all time: Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson, with Lindsey Bareham. The second half of that sentence is perfect, for all recipes are indeed a story. The ingredients are the beginning. The method is the middle. We all know the ending. The best of those stories promise a better life. And then there is roast chicken, one of those tales that people like me love being told time and again.

I have been looking for a copy for years – scouring second-hand bookshops and eBay. The original hardback version (when it did appear) was being sold for around the £50 (almost $100AUD) mark – before I added on exorbitant postage (mostly) from the UK.

I was, therefore, very happy to come across a more reasonably priced, readily available paperback version.

Essentially this is a collection of Hopkinson’s favourite ingredients and what you can do with them. Woven throughout are stories, opinions and fanfares – where he shouts out to other chefs.  

Hopkinson’s style is traditional and his prose to the point and, at times, crusty – but delightfully so. As he says in the introduction:

Buy wine to go with food. Come home. Have a glass of wine. Cook the food and eat with more of the wine.

While the chapters involving offal are bare of post-it notes, the rest of the book is liberally peppered (see what I did there?) with torn pieces of sticky notes.

Many recipes, such as asparagus with eggs (below) are simple and classically French inspired – it really is just asparagus with hard-boiled eggs and parmesan – but with some ingredients, complication isn’t required. As an aside, this made for a very tasty light lunch.

As for whether it’s the most useful cookbook of all time? Yeah, that’s a big call – and not one I’m prepared to make. It does, however, deserve its cult following.

The Little Café By The Lake, by Joanne Tracey

Okay, so I won’t be reviewing my own book, but between copy editing and proofreading, I’ve read it twice over the last few weeks and am now on my final proofread…and yes, have found another couple of typos.

You though will need to wait until November – when it’s available. If you buy your digital books from Amazon, you can, of course, preorder your copy here. For all other platforms, you’ll need to wait until November 4. It will be worth it.

Given that The Little Café By The Lake is a sequel  (but can be read as a stand-alone) to Wish You Were Here and Happy Ever After, you can, however, use the next couple of months to catch up with all the characters. If you’re after links to other platforms, you’ll find them here.

Okay, over to you…what’s on your bookshelf? 

I’m joining my friends SueDeb and Donna with “What’s On Your Bookshelf?” a monthly feast of all things book related. 

You can find Deb’s post here, Sue’s here and Donna’s here.

If you’re linking up a blog post you can do so in the comments. Alternatively, you might want to get involved via Instagram or your social media of choice. Whichever way you choose to share, don’t forget to leave a note in the comments so we can find you. We even have a hashtag you can use #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge.

We also have a badge. That’s it below and all participants, contributors are welcome to display it on their blog, website or social media.

Simply take a screenshot of the image below, and follow these easy-peasy instructions here. Prefer a jpg? Drop me your email, and I’d be happy to email one to you.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

28 thoughts

  1. Hi Jo, I loved the Miss Fisher TV series although never saw the one set in the 70s. Thank you also for allowing me the privilege of an advance copy of your latest book: The little Cafe by the Lake. I loved it and think it is your best one yet! Thanks for being a co-host on #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge I love seeing what everyone has been reading.

  2. Wow, your post is so full of inspiration and your love of reading and writing shines through Jo. I chuckled at the shots of you reading with your ugg boots on and can relate although our weather down here is much more suited to uggs than yours, but you do look cosy!

    I thoroughly enjoyed all your reviews and that cook book sounds interesting to say the least! I’m so glad you mentioned your own books as I have too in my post 🙂

    I am listening to Matt Haig reading the Comfort Book and am doing so slowly to savour all of his wisdom, it’s just great. I will buy the real book soon. Another wonderful post for our #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge

    1. I’m going to buy the book too. I read a copy from the library and had to straighten all the corners out before returning it.

  3. I recently finished Happy Ever After (passed on to me by the lovely Donna) and really enjoyed it. You are a wonderful writer. I’m so happy that a few of the characters will return in The Little Café by the Lake (but it sounds like I should read Wish You Were Here first?). The other books you have on your shelf look interesting… so many books, so little time!

    1. I’m so glad Donna passed HEA over to you – and even more pleased that you enjoyed it. Yep read Wish You Were Here first – it will fill in a few gaps.

  4. Hi Jo. I haven’t read any of the books on your list but the Mathew Haig book is now on my list. I’m hearing great things about The Cafe by The Lake so will read the first two when I finish my current book. I’ve had them downloaded for ages but have been trying to work through the unread books in my shelf.

    1. I do exactly the same – have a list that I always seem to be trying to work through. Then things with a short borrow date (from the ,library) push in over the top. It’s never ending.

  5. Hi, Jo – I own very few cookbooks (shameful, I know). I actually use even fewer cookbooks than I own (double shame). But that Roast Chicken book sounds very intriguing. After all, “the most useful cookbook of all time” is an exceptional rating!
    Oh, and ditto everytihng you said about Tenant! 😀

    1. Shameful indeed…but it’s okay – I have enough for both of us. In fact, I have enough to keep a small town adequately supplied.

  6. I forgot to ask what you thought of Ms Fisher so I’m glad you enjoyed it! There’s something about Matthew Haig that puts me off – but that’s more about his Twitter personality. I read The Midnight Library and enjoyed that – as it was fiction….

      1. I must message you about a quote I wrote down at some point. I can’t remember what it’s from but wonder if it’s from that. I asked on Twitter but no responses etc…

  7. Jo, I love your Happily Ever After book and look forward to reading your subsequent novels. Thanks for introducing me to Paige Toon from your previous WOYBS post. I read “The One We Fell In Love With”. While the story was good, what I loved most about it is its setting in Chamonix. I’ve gone to Chamonix more than once and had fond memories of that charming French town. It’s a place that I would not hesitate to visit again.

    Here’s my contribution to WOYBS#2: https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/2021/09/17/recent-reads-and-golden-finds/

    1. Thanks so much for saying that Natalie. I’ve never been to Chamonix, but after reading that, wouldn’t mind seeing it for real.

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