What’s On Your Bookshelf? September

Here we are again – that time of the month when we talk about all things bookish.

Last month, if you recall, had been such a brilliant reading month from beginning to end that it had been tough to choose a highlight from a month of highlights. Since then? Yeah, nah… To be honest, there were moments when I despaired of finding anything that kept my interest. In some ways, it was like when you grab something that looks tasty but afterwards, you think, yeah, nice, but was it worth the calories?

I don’t, however, think it was entirely the fault of what I was reading, more, perhaps, the fact that what I was reading wasn’t right for my mood or situation. The day job has been messy and it’s been a month of waking each morning with my tummy churning. I’ve wanted something that could help me escape out of my head to somewhere much nicer, but nothing quite fitted the bill. For that reason I didn’t give anything a star rating – it wouldn’t have been fair on either the book or the author. It truly has been a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.”

Anyways, onto the books…

Winter Time, by Laurence Fearnley

A recommendation by one of my favourite bloggers, Thistles and Kiwis, this brilliantly written book by a Kiwi author and set in Mackenzie Country in the South Island of New Zealand, would have been my book of the month if read at any other time. Bleak, spare, and harsh it is what it says on the cover – winter time – yet, at the same time, as beautifully textured as that season can be.

A step out of my normal genre, I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of her novels.

A Wedding In The Country and A Wedding In Provence by Katie Fforde

After the bleak brilliance of Winter Time, I was after something warmer that wouldn’t tax my over-filled brain but would instead lighten that particular load. Katie Fforde usually delivers that for me. This time, however, I wanted more feeling and less froth, more depth and layers, so these didn’t quite do the trick for me this time round.

The Little Antique Shop Under The Eiffel Tower by Rebecca Raisin

Paris – tick. Antiques – tick. A bit of a mystery – tick. Good characters – tick. Good story – tick.

I should have loved this more than I did. The story was engaging, but there were parts where I know my editor probably would have left a comment in the margin saying something like “can cut? You’ve already told us this.” Perhaps it was because I felt it needed a stronger edit, perhaps it was because I was in a mood where I was noticing things like that, or perhaps it wasn’t quite the escape I’d been hoping for, but this didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

I will, however, be reading more from this author when my head is in a better space.

Our Don Bradman – My Story, by Peter Allen

I inherited my voracious reading habit from my mother – a love of books is something we’ve always shared. My father, however, is not a reader. The only thing I’ve ever seen him read (other than the books he sometimes read my sister and me when we were very little) has been the newspaper – and then mostly the back page.

He is, however, an avid cricket fan and over the years, desperate for gift ideas, we’ve bought him cricket books – those ones that are full of anecdotes by fast bowlers or sledge-happy wicket keepers – but most would still be on the bookshelf unopened.

He came across this one though in a box of second-hand cricket books given to him by one of my sister’s in-laws who happens to be a cricketer and actually read it. And loved it. So much so that when I was in Sydney visiting, he was telling me about it so I read it. And loved it. Perhaps I enjoyed it more because it’s the only book I’ve ever shared with my father.

Aimed at young readers, the blurb is:

The Diary of Victor McDonald, Sydney, 1932. Victor McDonald is cricket mad. He plays for his school team and his dream is to meet his cricketing hero, Don Bradman. But Australia is in the grip of the Great Depression. Work isn’t easy to come by. Victor’s father has lost his job and the family is moving to Sydney. Despite the daily struggle of life in inner Sydney, Victor not only sees Don Bradman in action, he even gets to meet him. With the English cricket team coming to Australia, Victor knows it’s going to be a great cricket season. But England has some nasty surprises in store. This will be one cricket season the Australians – and Victor – will never forget.

The book (and the diary) is fictional, but its value is in its social history. The years that Victor McDonald writes about encompass the impact of the Great Depression, the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the national front movement, and the Bodyline Ashes series. Told through short diary entries and one boy’s love of cricket in general and Don Bradman in particular the time really does come alive.

All history should be taught in this way.

Before I Met You, by Lisa Jewell

This is my first Lisa Jewell – and it won’t be my last. I began it on a flight to Melbourne the other week (when I should have been using the time to write) and had problems putting it down.

A dual timeline – 1920s bohemian London to 1990’s Soho (with a little Guernsey in the middle) – this story had me turning the digital pages.

My read of the month.

Looking ahead…

WOYBS is live next month on October 21. I will, however, be on a boat in the middle of the Arctic Sea as it goes live so you’ll need to wait to hear what I read on my holidays until the November edition.

Your turn…

Deb, Donna, Sue and I would love you to share what you’ve been reading. The linky is below – and it’s open until Monday evening (AEST).

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

32 thoughts

  1. I get the whole ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ vibe Jo and admire you for being honest about sharing those feelings. Your books all sound good and I can’t wait to follow you on your trip!

    1. There really are books for moods and life stages, aren’t there? The things you need to read now & the ones best left for later.

  2. Hi, Jo – You are a much kinder reviewer than I. I still give a lousy rating when reading in an unstellar mood. Today I gave Lianne Moriarty a 2.5 star rating for Nine Perfect Strangers. It definitely could have been my mood, but I stuck with my rating anyway.
    So cool to share reading with your father.

    1. I didn’t finish that one – swapped it at an Air BNB (with the owner’s permission) for The Most Beautiful Walk in the world by John Baxter.

  3. I think you have far too much on your mind right now to become absorbed by books and I think too, as an author, it would be frustrating to see ‘errors’ etc. Such a good story about your Dad and making a connection. Woot, your trip OS will be followed eagerly by me as it will be the only way I can do so these days… Excited for you. Congrats on your new book too. Denyse

  4. Oh I hate when I have a month where I’m struggling to read and get into a good book and you’re right that sometimes it’s just me and not the author’s fault. I used a lot of historical fiction to teach history to my boys because I have always found I am more interested in history when reading it through the view of a gripping story. I will be adding that Our Don Bradman to our lineup for sure!

  5. I too appreciate your honesty about not being able to get into the books or get as much out of them as you might have. Oddly enough, the one I want to read is The Little Antique Shop Under the Eiffel Tower, especially because of your comment on editing. Partly because I am curious to see if I see the same things. Within a few weeks my friend Donna and I hope to be sending our first final draft to her editor. I am combing through it very carefully to be sure it is in the best possible shape, but I know from writing for school, especially my thesis, that it can be hard to edit your own work. Do you agree? I enjoyed the review of all the books and hope you have a good time a way and a better week to come. Michele

    1. I absolutely agree. I have a 2 step editing process – a structural edit where my editor looks at it from a big picture viewpoint and a copy or line edit where it’s the turn of the details. Good luck with it!

      1. Thanks. If we succeed in getting favorable responses from our Beta readers and hope from the editor, and getting it published, you will know about it. You will be able to hear me all the way from Pennsylvania!

  6. I’ve never heard of any of these! I was saying on a different post how amazing it is that we can all have such a vastly different range in our circle of reading…which I guess is good for authors! Ha! #Whatsonmybookshelf

    1. It certainly is. I reckon Winter Time would be up your alley… It’s way more literary than I’d usually reach for and sparse yet beautiful at the same time – if that makes sense.

  7. Hi Jo, Interesting how good books cross our path in waves. I relate to your analogy on whether it was worth the calories…in a mood…wasn’t quite the escape…and whether parts could have been ‘cut’…a writer’s viewpoint.

    I placed in my calendar Sept. 28th where I will head to Amazon and get “Philly Barker Investigates” by Joanne Tracey, an author I greatly admire.💕 Ready to read on our Fall camping trip. 😀

  8. Hi Jo. Sometimes mood makes it difficult to choose a book. Last night I was trying to find an audio book and not one called to me. The same books today will probably all excite me. I’ve read a couple of Lisa Jewel books so will put Before I Met You on the list. The Little Antique Shop Under The Eiffel Tower – what a wonderful title.

  9. I ask myself those questions all the time now that I’m retired… Worth the calories? Worth the time? Worth the effort? There is nothing worse than spending the time and energy reading a book, then questioning whether it was worth it.

    I hope things work out work-wise. You write books that are definitely worth the time and effort, and you need to do that full-time. 🙂

  10. Hi Jo, I totally understand how you felt reading during the month. With my house move and settling in, my headspace wasn’t conducive to anything more than reading light books that didn’t tax my brain. I tried a couple of books with more substance but alas gave up. Our mood and headspace certainly plays a part in how we enjoy (or don’t enjoy) a book. So exciting that next month you will finally be up and away on your long awaited holiday and adventure. xx

  11. I am so glad you read and enjoyed the Laurence Fearnley! You might like her ‘The Quiet Spectacular’. Lisa Jewell – nearly downloaded an audio book by her so now will definitely give her a go now.

  12. Till recently I’d been in a reading slump and couldn’t articulate why. I think you nailed it – stress at work, struggling to find something that suited my mood. I ended up getting my reading groove back by rereading an older series I dearly love. It offered comfort during a stressful time.

    Before I Met You sounds amazing–onto the reading list it goes.

    I hope you’ll share pics from your Arctic Sea journey, because that also sounds amazing. Have a great trip!

  13. Hi Jo – I hate it when you can’t find the perfect book for how you’re feeling. Nothing beats being so immersed in a book that you forget the real world and all its “stuff” and just lose yourself somewhere else. I hope that job of yours eases up soon and you can relax into things more and start enjoying simpler times and more satisfying reading. x

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