Okay, so I missed October’s edition of What’s On Your Bookshelf while I was on holiday – which makes this one a bumper edition. So grab a cup of tea and settle down… we could be here for a while…
Before I get into what I’ve been reading since we last spoke in September (spoiler alert, I’ve read a lot), while in the UK I was lucky enough to walk in the footsteps of some of my literary heroines.
While in Yorkshire we visited Haworth and the home of the Brontes.
Being able to see (the tiny) rooms where Charlotte, Anne, and Emily created their masterpieces was special indeed; and visiting the region that inspired so much of their work made it all so much more real somehow.
The steep streets and the smokestacks of the mills, the blackened stone buildings, and the wild and windy moors (see what I did there?) brought the stories alive.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, was Jane Austen’s Bath and Southampton.
We had afternoon tea in The Pump Room, and although Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey) or Anne Elliott (Persuasion) would not have had scones as we did (scones as we now know them didn’t come into existence until after baking powder was invented i.e., after 1856) I could still imagine how it must have been.
I also visited the Jane Austen museum and tried to write with a feather quill as Jane must have done. What can I say? Respect.
While Jane didn’t spend long in Southampton, there are still associations with her in the town – although the house she lived in at 2 Castle Square, backing onto the town walls, is now a pub, The Juniper Berry.
What I’ve been reading
If I was to have posted last month, these are the books I would have told you about…
After enjoying Hamnet, I wanted to love Maggie O’Farrell’s The Marriage Portrait, but I didn’t. It did, however, make an impression on me and I found it uncomfortable, claustrophobic, and, at times, cruel – but beautifully, lyrically written. This was, I suspect, what the author wanted – to show us life and the plight of women in the Florentine and Ferrera courts in Renaissance Italy.
Besides, I was reading this at a time when I was ridiculously chaotically stressed with work in the lead-up to going away so I suspect my appreciation (or otherwise) of this one was influenced by that mindset.
In contrast, Veronica Henry’s The Impulse Purchase and Holly Wainwright’s I Give My Marriage A Year were the perfect novels to kickstart my holiday. I read both on the (long) flight to England. What can I say? I don’t sleep on planes. Of the two I think I enjoyed The Impulse Purchase more – it was a joy thing.
I’d been saving The Bullet That Missed and The Twist of a Knife to read on holiday and they did not disappoint. The Thursday Murder Club just keeps getting better, as does Horowitz’s Hawthorne mysteries. I was hard-pressed to separate these two as my favourite reads of September/October.
The Dales Detectives, by Julia Chapman
While in Grassington, in the Yorkshire Dales, I picked up a book written by a local author, Julia Chapman. The Stripey Badger Bookshop (see main picture) had all of them for sale in paperback, I, however, only had luggage room for one.
The book was Date With Death and it was the first in a series of cosy crime novels starring Samson O’Brien and Delilah Metcalfe. To be honest, the cliched names almost put me off, but the story was fabulous. So fabulous that I immediately downloaded books 2,3 and 4 to read on the cruise.
Being in the Dales as I read the first (and second) really enhanced the experience as the fells Chapman wrote about were all around.
After finishing these I took advantage of a port day and decent wifi to download No. 5, Date With Danger… and that’s when disaster struck. No. 6, Date With Deceit, was not available in iTunes or the Australian Amazon store, although no. 7, Date with Betrayal was. What to do? Read out of order? The horror.
I reached out to the author on Instagram who assured me the book was available in the UK Amazon store, but it’s not available on Kindle. There was nothing for it but to read no. 7. (I’ve since managed to get the Audible version of Date With Deceit, but it takes me so much longer to listen to a book than it does to read it… heavy sighs).
These are, however, an absolute masterclass in how to write a cozy crime series.
The second leg of our flight home the other week – from Singapore to Sydney – was characterised by two things:
- two screaming babies and
- a loss of the in-flight entertainment
Given that it was overnight and I don’t sleep on planes (even without screaming babies), I turned to my iPad and the next book on my TBR – Sally Hepworth’s The Younger Wife. It was just the right length for the flight and while I had a fair idea where it was going, it was enjoyable enough.
At Sydney we had a five-hour wait for our next flight and I opened one I’d really been looking forward to – Milly Johnson’s Together Again. Milly Johnson is one of those authors who just keeps getting better – and so it was with this title – which was my read of the month.
I downloaded The Inn At The Top by Neil Hanson partly because it’s about Tan Hill Inn in the North Yorkshire Dales – the highest pub in Britain and partly because I saw it in every bookshop in Yorkshire. You’ve probably read about it – it was the pub where guests were snowed in for three nights last November. Dating back to the 17th century, it’s in the middle of nowhere, with no other houses literally for miles and the closest town, Kirkby Stephen is a very windy eleven miles away.
We also stopped there for lunch one cold and blowy Saturday…
You always know that Christmas is coming with the release of a new Karen Swan novel. They’re usually set in and around the festive season, but other than the cover and the title have very little that is Christmassy about them. This year’s offering, The Christmas Postcards, is no different. It is, however, a very good read.
Another I’d been waiting to be released was Murder Most Royal, the latest in S J Bennett’s cosy crime series starring the late Queen Elizabeth. I’ve read a few reviews where Bennett is criticised for making these mysteries unbelievable, but, hello, it’s not The Crown, people. We know it’s meant to be fiction and I thoroughly enjoyed it – and am looking forward to seeing where Bennett takes this in the future.
Cookbook of the Month
I’ve long been a fan of Recipetin Eats aka Nagi Maehashi and cook something from her website or Instagram page most weeks. I’d pre-ordered a digital copy of this book and had been dying to get stuck into it once we were home.
In the three weeks that we’ve been home I’ve cooked at least six dishes from it and have many more bookmarked. Most recipes are quick, tested, tested and retested by Nagi and her team, and everything I’ve made so far has gone down well.
Plus, if you have the actual book, you can hover your phone over the code and see a video of the dish being made. Bonus.
In any case, Adventure Spaniel has bought a hard copy of the book for Sarah for Christmas (yes, my dog has excellent taste in cookbooks) partly because I think she’ll use it but also so there’s a copy in Hervey Bay when I’m staying there. Just don’t tell her…
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).