The Trailing Spouse by Jo Furniss @Jo_Furniss #Bookreview

Amazon Blurb

Amanda Bonham moved halfway around the world to be with the man she loves. Although expat life in Singapore can be difficult, Edward Bonham is a dream husband and a doting father to his teenage daughter, Josie.

But when their maid dies in an apparent suicide—and Amanda discovers the woman was pregnant and hiding a stash of drugs prescribed to Edward—she can’t help but wonder if her perfect husband has a fatal flaw. And if he can’t resist temptation under their own roof, what does he get up to when he travels?

Camille Kemble also has questions for Edward. Recently returned to Singapore, Camille is determined to resolve a family mystery. Amid a jumble of faded childhood memories, she keeps seeing Edward’s handsome face. And she wants to know why.

For one woman, the search for answers threatens everything she has. For another, it’s the key to all she lost. Both will follow his trail of secrets into the darkness to find the truth.

 

Wow, this one really had me gripped, but where to start without giving too much away. It’s certainly a complex novel, with lots going on. So much so, it’s nigh on impossible to pin it down to any one genre. It’s part mystery, part psychological thriller, part dysfunctional family drama and just for good measure there’s murder thrown in. Don’t mistake that as a criticism for it not knowing what it wants to be, I think the author handles the themes very well, and knows exactly what she is doing. In addition setting the novel against a background of expat life in Singapore, offers its own surprises, not least of which is the almost chattel like status of many married women. Little wonder then, that the sub plot of the exploitation of foreign maids and helpers is one that raises little concern in certain areas.

The book opens with the death of the Bonham’s maid in an apparent suicide. Even though Amanda is not a bad employer, her death makes her realise how little she knows about her maid, and indeed, about exactly what might have been going on under her roof. This starts her on a journey, during which, what she perceives to be the truth about her husband, and her troubled stepdaughter will gradually unravel with dramatic consequences.

The discovery of the truth, throughout the book is such that as the reader we never really know exactly how much is truth and how much perception. The story as it unfolds, is told alternatively from the viewpoints of Camille and Amanda. Yet both characters are somewhat unreliable narrators as their truth is coloured by their past experiences or current concerns.

Camille has returned to Singapore to work as a press officer at the British High Commission. Behind this move is her obsession to seek the truth about the disappearance of her parents 15 years ago. Her enforced return to England as a child, along with her brother, was a traumatic experience that has left her constantly wanting answers, not only about her parents, but their beloved maid. This latter results in her involvement with H.E.L.P. an organisation promoting the rights of foreign domestic workers.  When the Bonham’s maid is found dead, she is curious as to why and finds herself getting involved, especially when she believes she knows Edward Bonham.

Amanda, is the ‘trailing spouse’ of the title. A term used to describe a person who follows their partner because of a work, and it’s particularly associated with those in an expatriate situation. For many women it’s a life of leisure, of  morning coffees, book clubs, lunches and social media ‘friendship’ groups. Yet it’s also one of superficiality  and gossip so that Amanda is reluctant to reveal too much about personal life and concerns, leaving her without a confidante and support when things start unravelling.

It’s a book that will have you questioning everything, and everyone right until the bitter end, when the truth is finally uncovered. It would make a great Book Club read because of the questions it raises and the themes it introduces. I found it a cracking read and certainly look forward to more from this author.

 

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To blog or not to blog …?

 

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I don’t do resolutions anymore – life has taught me, they are invariably broken very quickly. But having said that, I do think that the closing of one year and the approaching new one, is an appropriate time to take stock and review. When I did my  Review of the Year post it was fun to look back but it also made me think about my blog.

When I started in November 2015, it was ostensibly to bring all my disparate reviews together in one place. I never intended to be a ‘blogger’ and I was surprised, not to mention delighted when I was seen and ‘accepted’ as one by the blogging community. That relationship is one, that has gone from strength to strength. I now count many of those people as friends and have had the pleasure of  meeting a number of them in real life. That relationship is one, that extended to include authors and other readers, was one that sustained me over the previous 18 months, and indeed sustained the blog.

So here’s the rub, my blog. My annual review pulled out the best bits and I was happy to celebrate those, but it also pointed out to me the other side. Essentially, aside from Five on Friday, (which I love as a feature and have been proud to see grow) my blog largely comprises of lists of books I’ve bought that I don’t stand an earthly chance of reading. Due to my enforced lack of reading, and poor concentration, my reviewing has been sporadic. In addition, what my ‘review’ also showed me, was that my reviews are the least popular posts on the blog. People have been more engaged by what I’ve done, where I’ve been and what I have to say on whatever Twitter storm has hit my radar. That is not to say that no-one looks at the reviews, but I think we are all aware that with so many other bloggers, those books are likely to have been highlighted in other places. While our individual reviews might be unique, the book may well have been featured elsewhere and doesn’t always have the same ‘pull’ as something more original.

This got me thinking again about why I blog and what I want to do going forward. I will admit that briefly (and I do mean briefly) the thought crossed my mind that if I was thinking this way, was it a sign of something more radically wrong. I’m happy to say that I think the answer is no. Being diagnosed with cancer makes you sit back  (literally – the treatment means you don’t have the energy for anything else!) and think about life. I think this natural re-assessment of life in general and what I want to do with it was just finally being extended to include the blog.

The thing is, I love my little blog. It might not be the biggest, the blingiest, the go-to, the most mentioned etc. etc. But that doesn’t matter, because I didn’t start it for that reason, and blogging isn’t a competition. We all run our blogs in different ways, we concentrate on different things, we take part in different things and we shout out about different things. That is all as it should be, because they are our own little (or big creations) designed to do whatever we set them up to do. While I set mine up for reviews, it has moved on from that and I need to think about the way forward. Before my illness I did have some ideas of things I’d like to introduce and they fell by the wayside. I think now is the time to look again at some of those ideas and how they might work.

Consequently the answer to the question to blog or not to blog is a resounding yes.  It’s just I’ll be shaking things up a bit. I’ll still have my book hauls, and there will (as long as I can persuade authors to take part) be Five on Friday and when I actually read a book, hopefully a review. But I want to broaden the scope. I love travel and I love history (I’m the proud possessor of two history degrees, it would be nice to put some of those research skills to good use). I was also a cataloguer and librarian so I want to start introducing some features that draw on those interests and skills while still shouting out about books. One of my original ideas was to do features on properties and places with literary links – title yet to be decided but I’m sorely tempted by ‘Piles of Literature’ or ‘Literary Piles’. I’d love to write about some of my travels and favourite places to be accompanied by an appropriate reading list. I think generally I’d like the blog to be a bit more individual, and personal, but still in a bookish way. That would seem to play to the strengths of the features that appeared to be popular, while giving me more scope to expand and explore areas I’m interested in.

I’ve got some other one off features in the pipe-line too, so watch this space and wish me luck. I just hope you’re all still here at the end of the year to let me know whether it actually worked.

Five on Friday with Lisa Hall @LisaHallAuthor ‏

Welcome to 2019 and a I’m delighted to host psychological thriller writer, Lisa Hall who is heralding in a new year of fortnightly Five on Friday’s. Lisa was our designated author at the Murder Mystery Dinner at Harrogate last year and while we didn’t win, we still think we had the best ‘who did it’ and why. We are all keeping an eye out to make sure ‘our’ plotline never appears elsewhere. Even the great Lee Child acknowledged our submission was more of book than an answer!

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Author Bio:

Lisa Hall is the best-selling author of Between You and Me, Tell Me No Lies and The Party. She loves words, reading and everything there is to love about books. Lisa dreamed of being a writer since she was a little girl – either that or a librarian – and after years of talking about it, was finally brave enough to put pen to paper (and let people actually read it). She lives in a small village in Kent, surrounded by her towering TBR pile, a rather large brood of children, dogs, chickens and ponies and her long-suffering husband. She is also rather partial to eating cheese and drinking wine.

So over to Lisa

Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?

Hmm this is a tough one!

I would have to say Tiny Dancer by Elton John (an incredible song, and definitely my go-to karaoke tune).

Acquiesce by Oasis as it was played at our wedding.

Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi, as it reminds me of amazing nights out with my bestie.

Panic by The Smiths (a long-time favourite, and if I’m honest, I’m prone to panic at deadlines).

Better Now by Post Malone because it reminds me of my kids.

 

Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.

Books, obviously.

My pug, Peggy. Even though she snores.

PG Tips. I even packed them on my trip to Peru

Lip balm and hand cream. I have hundreds of both.

Yankee Candles. I can’t help it, I love them…

 

Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?

I don’t have 5 pieces of advice, but two main ones :–

Don’t worry about what other people think about you.

Always be kind.

 

Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.

 

I’m allergic to mushrooms…only I’m not, I just told my kids that because I don’t like them (if they ask, I’m still allergic, OK?)

I used to bake cakes for a living…

 I am one of those annoying people who LOVE Christmas…I start getting in the festive spirit from the first week of November (don’t hate me, grinches)

I once met Harold Bishop from Neighbours (this is my only claim to fame)

I have a huge family – lots of sisters, and my dad is very proud to say he has an entire football team of grandchildren!

 

What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?

My bucket list is mostly travel related as we tend to suffer from itchy feet in our family, and I’m pleased to say I have managed to tick a lot of them off…

The top of my bucket list was to write a book…I think I can tick that one off!

Machu Picchu – this was a dream trip, and I managed to do it this year.

The Great Wall of China – I’d love to walk the Great Wall!

I managed to tick off Christmas in New York last year, so now I want Christmas somewhere snowy…I’m thinking Switzerland…

The Taj Mahal – I made it to Mumbai last year, so next stop Agra and the Taj Mahal.

 

Thanks so much for taking part and sharing with us Lisa. Re the mushrooms, we won’t tell – honest! I’m glad to see Peggy made the list, even though she snores. I suspect many of us are not so accommodating with our other halves with the same problem as we are with our pets. Ooh a professional cake baker, what a pity you don’t live closer – that must come handy at Christmas though (I’m more of a grinch, but I don’t hate those that aren’t). Glad to see you’ve already achieved some of those bucket list items – I definitely recommend The Taj Mahal so hopefully you’ll get there. 

Lisa’s Books

(click on image for a non-affiliated buying link)

 

the partyThe Party

It was just a party. But it turned into a nightmare.
When Rachel wakes up in a strange room, the morning after a neighbour’s party, she has no memory of what happened the night before. Why did her husband leave her alone at the party? Did they row? Why are Rachel’s arms so bruised? And why are her neighbours and friends so vague about what really happened?

Little by little, Rachel pieces together the devastating events that took place in a friend’s house, at a party where she should have been safe. Everyone remembers what happened that night differently, and everyone has something to hide. But someone knows the truth about what happened to Rachel. And she’s determined to find them.

 

tell me no liesTell Me No Lies

It was supposed to be a fresh start.

A chance to forget the past and embrace the future. But can you ever really start again?

Or does the past follow you wherever you go?

Steph and Mark have just moved house, trying to find a way forward after all the secrets, lies and betrayal.

But starting over isn’t always easy. Especially when someone will go to any lengths to make sure you never forget…

 

between you and meBetween You and Me

 

They say every marriage has its secrets.
But no one sees what happens behind closed doors.
And sometimes those doors should never be opened…

 

Sal and Charlie are married. They love each other. But they aren’t happy. Sal cannot leave, no matter what Charlie does – no matter how much it hurts.

 

Lisa’s latest book Have You Seen Her will be published in May but is available to pre-order now.

have you seen herHave You Seen Her

Bonfire Night. A missing girl.
Anna only takes her eyes off Laurel for a second. She thought Laurel was following her mum through the crowds. But in a heartbeat, Laurel is gone.

Laurel’s parents are frantic. As is Anna, their nanny. But as the hours pass, and Laurel isn’t found, suspicion grows.

Someone knows what happened to Laurel. And they’re not telling.

 

You can follow Lisa via

Her website

Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris #bookreview @Anstey_Harris @simonschusterUK BookMinxSJV @BookMinxSJV

Amazon Blurb

Between the simple melody of running her violin shop and the full-blown orchestra of her romantic interludes in Paris with David, her devoted partner of eight years, Grace Atherton has always set her life to music.

Her world revolves entirely around David, for Grace’s own secrets have kept everyone else at bay. Until, suddenly and shockingly, one act tips Grace’s life upside down, and the music seems to stop.

It takes a vivacious old man and a straight-talking teenager to kickstart a new chapter for Grace. In the process, she learns that she is not as alone in the world as she had once thought, that no mistake is insurmountable, and that the quiet moments in life can be something to shout about …

 

I think the blurb tells you all you need to need to know, about the underlying story line and I’m loath to say much more for fear of spoiling what is a moving story of heartbreak, friendship and the resilience of the human spirit.

As well as the intriguing relationship between Grace and David, which on its own will have you reading to uncover the truth, there is an unfolding back story of Grace’s musical past and a contemporary plot line involving the feisty Nadia and the wonderful Mr Williams. What draws them altogether is Grace’s shop where she sells, repairs and makes violas and violins. The difference between the two you will discover for yourself and I found myself far more fascinated than I expected by the workings and construction of the instruments she loves. While Grace lacks confidence in performing, she has no such reservations about her ability to make what she hopes to be a prize-winning ‘cello.

As a perfect foil to Grace is her feisty and troubled teenage assistant Nadia. While their relationship is not without problems, they are balanced by the wisdom and kindness of their elderly customer, and fellow player Mr Williams. Watching their friendship develop was lovely and as it grew in strength gave Grace the confidence to question and challenge other aspects of her life, both past and present.

I’m not saying too much about David, for me, the best part of his character was the fact he lived in Paris. It gave us the opportunity to stroll the boulevards, experience the restaurants and enjoy the ambience that was expertly conjured up.

The Grace we first encounter is a damaged character, and at times her naivety and lack of confidence can be frustrating, but the Grace we leave behind is a very different woman, and all the better for it. This is a story that slowly draws you in and has the ability to shock with its drama, but will ultimately leave you uplifted and contented.

Many thanks to the publisher for an advance copy to enable this review. The book is published in hardback and e-book format on 10th January.

 

December Book Haul

So the end of another year and a final look at what I managed to add to the book mountain. In case you think I might be exaggerating Goodreads informs me I have 3268 e-books waiting to be read and 642 physical books on my bookshelves. This latter only includes those titles I actually put on Goodreads and does not include the bulk of my non fiction titles or older fiction works. Given that I’m now 60, I think it’s fair to say that it’s unlikely I’m ever going to read them all. Something that others regularly point out to me when I’m buying another. Strangely (and thankfully) not my OH, who accepts my book buying foibles with good grace – though that might be because so far I’ve managed to house the physical copies without too much disruption to the normal functioning of most rooms. It has to be said that the only rooms in the house that do not contain book cases are the main bedroom and bathrooms. Otherwise you’re never more than a few strides away from a book depository.

So having admitted that you might think, that this would be the time to mark a line in the sand and make some resolutions for the coming year. Well it could be, but it won’t. I no longer ‘do’ resolutions. I’ve lived long enough to accept that for the most part you are setting yourself up to fail, with goals that if you really wanted to achieve them, wouldn’t be waiting until Jan 1st. Life is too short, too unpredictable and too uncontrollable to be adding the further pressure of unrealistic goals. Set yourself achieveable and realistic ones by all means but lay off the pressure. So with that in mind I will not be imposing any book buying bans, I might attempt to be a bit more selective, but not buying is never going to happen. Doesn’t matter they might never be read, I don’t spend a fortune on them and I get pleasure from knowing that a particular title is there if I want it. No unrealistic reading targets either, if the last year has taught me anything, it’s that life gets in the way. Do what you can, when you can and because you want to and NOT because you have too, where’s the fun in that?

So with that said, here’s the book haul for December.

Kindle Purchases

(Click on image for non-affiliated buying link)

 

Fa-La-Llama-LaFa-La-Llama-La : Christmas at the Little French Llama Farm by Stephanie Dagg

It’s very nearly Christmas and, temporarily jobless and homeless, Noelle is back at home with her parents. However, a phone call from her cousin Joe, who runs a house-and-pet-sitting service, saves her from a festive season of Whist, boredom and overindulging.
So Noelle is off to France to mind a dozen South American mammals. She arrives amidst a blizzard and quickly discovers that something is definitely wrong at the farm. The animals are there all right, but pretty much nothing else – no power, no furniture and, disastrously, no fee. Add to that a short-tempered intruder in the middle of the night, a premature delivery, long-lost relatives and participation in a living crèche, and this is shaping up to be a noel that Noelle will never forget.
Fa-La-Llama-La is a feel-good, festive and fun romcom with a resourceful heroine, a hero who’s a bit of a handful and some right woolly charmers.

 

Christmas GiftA Christmas Gift by Sue Moorcroft

One Christmas can change everything…

Georgine loves Christmas. The festive season always brings the little village of Middledip to life. But since her ex-boyfriend walked out, leaving her with crippling debts, Georgine’s struggled to make ends meet.

To keep her mind off her worries, she throws herself into organising the Christmas show at the local school. And when handsome Joe Blackthorn becomes her assistant, Georgine’s grateful for the help. But there’s something about Joe she can’t quite put her finger on. Could there be more to him than meets the eye?

Georgine’s past is going to catch up with her in ways she never expected. But can the help of friends new and old make this a Christmas to remember after all?

 

The Paris SeamstressThe Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester

What must Estella sacrifice to make her mark?

1940: Parisian seamstress Estella Bissette is forced to flee France as the Germans advance. She is bound for Manhattan with a few francs, one suitcase, her sewing machine and a dream: to have her own atelier.

2015: Australian curator Fabienne Bissette journeys to the annual Met Gala for an exhibition of her beloved grandmother’s work – one of the world’s leading designers of ready-to-wear. But as Fabienne learns more about her grandmother’s past, she uncovers a story of tragedy, heartbreak and secrets – and the sacrifices made for love.

 

NightblindNight Blind by Ragnar Jónasson 

Siglufjörður: an idyllically quiet fishing village on the northernmost tip of Iceland, accessible only via a small mountain tunnel.
Ari Thór Arason: a local policeman, whose tumultuous past and uneasy relationships with the villagers continue to haunt him.
The peace of this close-knit community is shattered by the murder of a policeman – shot at point-blank range in the dead of night in a deserted house. With a killer on the loose and the dark arctic winter closing in, it falls to Ari Thór to piece together a puzzle that involves tangled local politics, a compromised new mayor, and a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik, where someone is being held against their will. Then a mysterious young woman moves to the area, on the run from something she dare not reveal, and it becomes all too clear that tragic events from the past are weaving a sinister spell that may threaten them all.

 

BlackoutBlack Out by Ragnar Jónasson 

On the shores of a tranquil fjord in Northern Iceland, a man is brutally beaten to death on a bright summer’s night. As the 24-hour light of the arctic summer is transformed into darkness by an ash cloud from a recent volcanic eruption, a young reporter leaves Reykajvik to investigate on her own, unaware that an innocent person’s life hangs in the balance.
Ari Thór Arason and his colleagues on the tiny police force in Siglufjörður struggle with an increasingly perplexing case, while their own serious personal problems push them to the limit. What secrets does the dead man harbour, and what is the young reporter hiding? As silent, unspoken horrors from the past threaten them all, and the darkness deepens, it’s a race against time to find the killer before someone else dies…

 

The Queen of Bloody EverythingThe Queen of Bloody Everything by Joanna Nadin

As Edie Jones lies in a bed on the fourteenth floor of a Cambridge hospital, her adult daughter Dido tells their story, starting with the day that changed everything.

That was the day Dido – aged exactly six years and twenty-seven days old – met the next door neighbours and fell in love.

Because the Trevelyans were exactly the kind of family Dido dreamed of.

 

MidwinterMidwinter by Fiona Melrose

Father and Son, Landyn and Vale Midwinter, are Suffolk farmers, living together on land their family has worked for generations. But they are haunted there by a past they have long refused to confront: the death of Cecelia, beloved wife and mother, when Vale was just a child. Both men have carried her loss, unspoken. Until now.

With the onset of a mauling winter, something between them snaps.

While Vale makes increasingly desperate decisions, Landyn retreats, finding solace in the land, his animals – and a vixen who haunts the farm and seems to bring with her both comfort and protection.

Tender and lyrical, alive to language and nature, Midwinter is a novel about guilt, blame, lost opportunities and, ultimately, it is a story about love and the lengths we will go to find our way home.

 

The Chosen OnesThe Chosen Ones by Carol Wyer

On a hot summer’s morning, a young father is found murdered in a cornfield, outside the quiet town of Colton. Tied to a post, arms spread wide; Detective Robyn Carter is reminded of the crucifixion, and she knows she’s looking for a killer with a twisted sense of right and wrong.

The victim’s girlfriend is devastated, unable to fathom how she will tell her sick little boy. Still reeling from her own loss, Robyn vows she will find the killer – no matter what.

But then a local doctor – a popular woman with a young family of her own – is found dead outside her surgery. There are similarities between her and the first body and Robyn must take another look at the picture-postcard town, where no one has any enemies.

Can Robyn untangle the hidden web of secrets, lies, and smouldering grudges, at the heart of this close-knit community, before another life is lost?

 

BridesmaidsBridesmaids by Zara Stoneley (pre-ordered due 26 April)

Four friends.

Four secrets.

A wedding they’ll never forget.

 

Peas, Carrots and an Aston MartinPeas, Carrots & an Aston Martin by Hannah Lynn

Eric Sibley has it all; great job, big house, beautiful family. Even when his estranged father dies, Eric can’t help but dream about the luxuries he’ll spend his inheritance on. Unfortunately, Eric’s late father, had other ideas.

Life quickly becomes a chaotic kaleidoscope of grumpy pensioners, wellington boots and vintage automobiles as Eric is forced to juggle his hectic career and family life in London, with regular visits to the small riverside town of Burlam.

Plagued by heavy machinery mishaps, missed deadlines and drug raids, it’s not long before his job, his marriage and his sanity are hanging in the balance. Will he get his hands on his father’s treasured Aston Martin before he loses all three?

 

The Industry of Human HappinessThe Industry of Human Happiness by James Hall

A tale of love, murder and obsession in the early days of recorded sound.

Set in the murky backstage world of late Victorian theatreland, The Industry of Human Happiness is about the obsessive characters who dreamed of bringing recorded music to the masses.

Max and his younger cousin Rusty have a vision of launching the gramophone industry from a Covent Garden basement. But a renowned opera singer is brutally murdered in his hotel bed and they are thrust into the underworld of opium dens, brothels and extortion.

Ghosts from the past and a contested inheritance turn the cousins against each other, and they go head-to-head to launch rival talking machines. With Max’s sweetheart, the ambitious singer Delilah Green, caught in the middle, the pair battle rival manufacturers, London theatre owners and, ultimately, each other, for their very futures.

This is a story of obsession, the pursuit of love and the enduring magic of music.

 

Every Day Is a HolidayEvery Day is a Holiday by George Mahood

George Mahood had a nice, easy, comfortable life. He had a job, a house, a wife and kids. But something was missing. He was stuck in a routine of working, changing nappies and cleaning up cat sick. He felt like he was missing out on a lot of what the world had to offer.

He then discovered that it was Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day. The day after that was National Curmudgeon Day, and the day after that was Inane Answering Machine Message Day. In fact, the calendar is FULL of these quirky, weird and wonderful events. He realised that somebody somewhere had created these holidays, believing that they were important enough to warrant their own official day. Surely he should therefore be more appreciative of their existence? So he decided to try and celebrate them all. As you do. He hoped that at the end of the challenge he would be transformed into a happier, more intelligent and more content person.

Follow George on his hilarious, life changing adventure as he tries to balance his normal life with a wealth of new experiences, people, facts and ridiculous situations. It’s a rip-roaring, life-affirming, roller-coaster of a ride, where every day is a holiday.

 

Kipling and TrixKipling & Trix by Mary Hamer

As young children, Rudyard and his sister ‘Trix’ flourished in the brilliant warmth and colour of India. Their happiness ended abruptly when they were sent back to England to live with a strict and god-fearing foster family.
Both became writers, although one lived in the shadow of the other’s extraordinary success. The name Rudyard Kipling is known to millions, but what became of his talented younger sister? She was careful to hide her secret life even from those closest to her.

Mary Hamer’s fascinating novel brings both Kipling and Trix vividly to life. In this fictionalised account of their lives, she goes to the heart of the relationship between a difficult brother and his troubled sister. Hamer peels back the historical record to reveal the obsessions which fuelled Kipling and his sister. Was he really better equipped to deal with conflict, heartbreak and loss than his beloved Trix?

 

The Art of ForgettingThe Art of Forgetting by Julie McLaren

A missing girl. A secret decades old. Memories that re-surface, as bright as if they were yesterday. A mind slipping into confusion.

Judy is only in her sixties, but she recognises what is happening to her. She struggles to remember what happened yesterday, but the past, with the secret she has kept all these years, troubles her. She begins to write an account of the events leading up to a mystery that was never solved, but time is against her.

This is the story of what happens when Judy’s daughter Laura finds her account and resolves to solve the mystery that her mother has kept secret all these years. It is told against the backdrop of Judy’s increasing confusion and the new landscape in which she finds herself as the family has to take increasingly difficult decisions.

Laura’s own life is thrown into turmoil and what she finds out could cause shockwaves in the family and beyond. Now she is the keeper of a secret too, but what will she do with it?

 

Music From HomeMusic from Home by Geraldine O’Neill

Maria Conti has a full and busy life in 60’s Manchester. Having lost her mother at a young age, she has a close and loving relationship with her father, Leo who owns an Italian restaurant, Leonardo’s. Finding first romance with Paul Spencer seems like the icing on the cake.

Secretly, however, she worries over Leo’s drinking and gambling binges. Then he buys a racehorse she know he cannot afford. Maria has no one to advise her as Leo’s family are in Italy and her mother’s family in Ireland rejected her when she married a foreigner.

Having carefully guarded her father from female attention, Maria’s attitude alters when the elegant Diana Freeman comes into their lives. She hopes that Diana’s presence may distance Leo from his addictions.

Then Leo is tragically killed. In the dark days that follow it emerges that he has left them deeply in debt and their home and her beloved Leonard’s are in jeopardy. Maria has no choice but to turn to her estranged Irish Family.

Still reeling from her loss, she fins she has yet another challenge to face, In Ireland, as she uncovers a bitter legacy of secrets and lies, she comes to realise that their mother was not the person she’s been led to believe she was.

 

Watching The BodiesWatching the Bodies by Graham Smith

When Jake Boulder is asked by his PI friend to help investigate the vicious murder of Kira Niemeyer, he soon finds himself tracking a serial killer who selects his next victim in a most unusual manner.

As the body count rises, Boulder has to work with the police to identify the heinous killer before more lives are taken. What ensues is a twisted game of cat and mouse, that only Boulder or the Watcher can survive. But who will it be?

 

It_s a Wonderful NightIt’s a Wonderful Night by Jaimie Admans

One night will change their lives forever…

Georgia Bailey is closing up her little charity shop in Oakbarrow when she gets a mysterious late night call from a stranger, threatening to jump off the town’s bridge.

Something about the man’s voice is faintly familiar but all she can do is stay on the line and after talking for hours, losing sense of time passing, coax him back from the edge.

The next morning, Georgia walks to work, buys a festive latte from Leo (who she’s had a crush on for months!) at the local coffee shop, and is shocked when she suddenly recognizes the voice from last night…

 

A Different RiverA Different River by Jo Verity

Miriam had been freewheeling into a comfortable future, but after a bitter betrayal she’s stuck between the dual spectres of maternal servitude and obligation to her octogenarian parents.

A random encounter at the local arts centre presents her with job opportunity she would never have imagined in a million years. Mere weeks later, on a visit to her childhood home, she hears news that offers a chance to rewrite the past.

Given the luxury of hindsight, making the right decisions about her professional and private lives should be a breeze… But can Miriam’s instincts be trusted? There’s only one way to find out, she must pinch her nose and jump right in.

 

Scorched EarthScorched Earth by David Mark

The police think Crystal Heathers isn’t missing.

The trainee detective assigned to the case isn’t so sure.

McAvoy thinks someone was being held at the derelict building where they just found a body pinned to the wall…and that all the signs point to it being a little girl.

But why would anyone not report a kidnapping?

And how far would someone go to get revenge?

The case will test McAvoy to breaking point – as the crimes of the present lead him to a final violent confrontation with an enemy from his own past.

 

Difficult HusbandsDifficult Husbands by Mary de Laszlo

Three friends. One surprise inheritance. And the perfect plan to deal with troublesome husbands…

Newly divorced Lorna is struggling to adjust to life on her own. When she discovers that her beloved godfather has left her the grand (and crumbling) Ravenscourt House in the heart of Sussex, she soon has a project on her hands.

Nathan sells delicious goodies at Mulberry Farm. When he meets Lorna at a Christmas market, neither of them can ignore the chemistry. But as they get to know one another, Lorna wants to know one thing – is he after her or the house?

Together with Gloria – whose marriage to alcoholic Adrian has hit rock bottom, and Rosalind – struggling to deal with her womanising husband Ivan, the three friends hatch a plan. They’ll ditch their difficult husbands at Ravenscourt House and enjoy stress-free Christmases with their families. But nothing is ever that simple…

 

A Deadly ThawA Deadly Thaw by Sarah Ward

Every secret has consequences.

Autumn 2004
In Bampton, Derbyshire, Lena Fisher is arrested for suffocating her husband, Andrew.

Spring 2016
A year after Lena’s release from prison, Andrew is found dead in a disused mortuary.

Who was the man Lena killed twelve years ago, and who committed the second murder? When Lena disappears, her sister, Kat, sets out to follow a trail of clues delivered by a mysterious teenage boy. Kat must uncover the truth – before there’s another death . . .

 

Hotel SilenceHotel Silence by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

JÓNAS FEELS LIKE HIS LIFE IS OVER.

His wife has left him, his mother is slipping deeper into dementia, and his daughter is no longer who he thought. So he comes up with a foolproof plan: to buy a one-way ticket to a chaotic, war-ravaged country and put an end to it all.

But on arriving at Hotel Silence, he finds his plans – and his anonymity – begin to dissolve under the foreign sun. Now there are other things that need his attention, like the crumbling hotel itself, the staff who run it, and his unusual fellow guests. And soon it becomes clear that Jónas must decide whether he really wants to leave it all behind; or give life a second chance, albeit down a must unexpected path…

 

AttendAttend by West Camel

When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah.
Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, an exquisite history of hidden Deptford and, ultimately, the solution to their crises.
With echoes of Armistead Maupin, Attend is a beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel, rich in finely wrought characters that you will never forget.

 

The Perfect ChristmasThe Perfect Christmas by Georgie Carter

All I want for Christmas is you!

If you’re a wedding planner it’s best not to have affairs with married men. This is one cardinal rule that Robyn always abides by. But then she meets Jonathan…

After a delicious dalliance in the dance studio, Robyn and Jonathan fall truly, madly, deeply in love. Jonathan justifies his actions because his wife is a workaholic, while Robyn finds the glamour – free from any mundane concerns – thrilling.

But then the pressure mounts up: the guilt; the lies; the strain of it all. With the festive season approaching, can Robyn make this the best holiday ever or will it be the nightmare before Christmas?

 

Waiting SeasonWaiting Season by Melanie Lageschulte

A new year brings new challenges … and the chance to make a dream come true.

Melinda expected to spend January relaxing by the fireplace while paging through the seed catalogs’ promises of spring. After all, the slower pace of the country was one of the reasons she’d let go of her bustling life in the city.

Instead, she finds herself struggling to keep the worst of winter’s threats from her door. Shoveling snow, thawing her acreage’s water lines, and anxiously watching over the pregnant sheep in her barn fill Melinda’s shorter days and longer nights. She pushes on because Horace’s offer still stands: He’ll sell her the farm in the spring if she truly wants to stay.

But as winter tightens its grip, Melinda’s biggest trials are still to come. When a series of events threatens to break her heart and shatter her hopes, can she find the strength to see the season through?

 

The Queen_s ConsortThe Queen’s Consort by Steven Veerapen

1563  Lord Darnley is a prince of the blood.

He is handsome, ambitious – and an unwitting pawn in a game of thrones, played out by the rival queens of England and Scotland.

As he escapes northwards, Darnley falls in love with the enigmatic Mary, Queen of Scots.

But is the beautiful and regal woman all that she seems?

As Darnley is drawn into Mary’s web – and bed – he discovers that being a king does not mean wearing the crown.

As one of the most passionate marriages in British history falters, Darnley must pit his wits against his wife.

There will be blood.  The end of their affair will shape their hearts – and history.

 

Runaway BrideRunaway Bride by Mary Jayne Baker

Here comes the bride… but how long can she hide?

When Kitty Clayton flees her wedding with no money, no bank card and no phone, her life seems worryingly futureless. All she knows is, she’d rather sleep on the streets than go back home to cheating Ethan.

After picking her up hitch-hiking, widowed children’s author Jack Duffy takes Kitty under his wing, looking out for her until she gets back on her feet. And it’s not long before the two grow close…

But with Jack struggling to recover from the guilt he feels over his wife’s death and Kitty refusing to face up to the problems she’s running away from at home, will the two ever manage to share a happily ever after?

 

Acts and OmissionsActs and Omissions by Catherine Fox

The Bishop of Lindchester is happily married with four daughters. But does he have a secret? Archdeacon Matt is inclined to think not. That said, it’s obvious to him that Bishop Paul’s got a pretty big bee in his mitre about the brilliant but troubled Freddie May . . . Welcome to the fictional Diocese of Lindchester, where you will be taken (dear reader) on a yearlong romp in the company of bishops, priests and lay people. Prepare yourself for a bumpy and hilarious ride from the rarefied heights of the Cathedral Close down to the coalface of ordinary urban and rural parishes. Acts and Omissions reveals the Church of England in all its mess and glory. It is a world shot through with grace, but one where even the best intentioned err and stray. And occasionally do those things which they ought not to have done . . .

 

Paperback Purchases

 

The Beauty of the EndThe Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells

I was fourteen when I fell in love with a goddess . . .

A love he’d never forget

Ex-lawyer Noah has never forgotten his first love. When, years later, he hears that she’s suspected of murder, he knows with certainty that she’s innocent. With April on life-support and the evidence pointing towards her guilt, he’s compelled to help her. But he’s also unprepared as he’s forced to confront what happened between them all those years ago.

A secret she would never reveal

April Moon had loved Noah. She never wanted to hurt him. But there was something – and someone – dark in her life which made happiness together impossible.

A family she could never forgive

Ella is a troubled teenager with her own secrets to tell. But no one will listen. What Ella knows holds the key to finding the killer. But as Noah, April and Ella’s stories converge, shocking revelations come to the surface. The truth is obvious. Or so everyone believes . . .

 

Little Christmas KitchenThe Little Christmas Kitchen by Jenny Oliver

Ella Davenport is turning her world upside down. She’s ditching her cheating ex, swapping Carnaby Street for Corfu and heading back to the bustling family restaurant of her childhood. but returning home won’t be as easy as she thought…

Meanwhile, her sister Maddy has always loved the quiet pace of island life but now she’s longing to escape. So when Ella arrives in Corfu, she jumps at the chance to trade places and soon she’s exploring the snowy streets of London in search of her own adventure.

But thousands of miles apart and struggling to adjust to their new lives, Ella and Maddy are about to find out that all they want for Christmas is each other…

 

The Christmas AngelThe Christmas Angel by Marcia Willett

As Christmas approaches, everything seems to be falling into place for Dossie. Her son Clem and his adorable four-year-old son Jakey have moved to Cornwall to be closer to her. She runs her own successful catering business. All she needs now is for the run of bad luck in her romantic life to end…

But while little Jakey helps to put away the decorations after another cosy Christmas surrounded by friends and family, an avaricious property developer starts prowling around. The Cornish home which he has known all his life is in danger of being sold up, and everything is changing.

Will this close-knit unit who so depend on each other still be together next Christmas? And what will they have learnt about having somewhere you truly belong?

 

Prize Wins and Giveaways

 

TrapTrap by Lilja Sigurdardóttir

Happily settled in Florida, Sonja believes she’s finally escaped the trap set by unscrupulous drug lords. But when her son Tomas is taken, she’s back to square one … and Iceland.
Her lover, Agla, is awaiting sentencing for financial misconduct after the banking crash, and Sonja refuses to see her. And that’s not all … Agla owes money to some extremely powerful men, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it back.
With her former nemesis, customs officer Bragi, on her side, Sonja puts her own plan into motion, to bring down the drug barons and her scheming ex-husband, and get Tomas back safely. But things aren’t as straightforward as they seem, and Sonja finds herself caught in the centre of a trap that will put all of their lives at risk…
Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Trap is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

 

December Book Subscriptions

 

Stories we tell ourselvesStories we Tell Ourselves by Sarah Francoise – paperback via Reading in Heels

Frank and Joan’s marriage is in trouble. Having spent thirty years failing to understand each other, Joan’s frustrations have finally reached boiling point. But it’s Christmas, and their three children are coming home for the holiday. So Joan determines to make things work.

With the Christmas tree up, plates of mince pies artfully arranged and the obligatory poinsettia in situ, the stage is set for a traditional family Christmas. If only this family were up to the challenge.

Told with wit, understanding and disarming honesty, this is a novel about the thorniness of family love and its capacity to endure.

 

Merry MidwinterMerry Midwinter by Gillian Monks – ebook via Unbound Reading Club

Celebrating midwinter is not about what you buy or how much you spend – it’s about your attitude to life. Turn away from the frenetic consumerism of Christmas and rediscover the authentic and meaningful realities of this, the oldest and most precious celebration of the year.

The true significance of midwinter is not found in any individual spiritual or religious belief or practice. Instead, the winter solstice provides an opportunity to celebrate what we as humans share; to set aside our differences and come together with a sense of community and cheer.

Merry Midwinter is a cornucopia of ideas for how to make your own decorations (kissing boughs, advent wreaths, crackers, stockings and more); your own alternative gifts which cost nothing except your time and thought; your own entertainments and games; and simple, seasonal recipes from years gone by.

 

That’s it for another month folks and I’ll catch up with you again for the January list.  Happy Reading!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review of the Year

Yes, it’s that time of year again, only this year I’m offering a different round-up to my usual offering.  In the past, along with many other bloggers, I’ve listed my Top 10 (or in my indecisive year – 15) books of the year. This year I’m passing on that option. Not because I haven’t read any worthy books, but rather because I’ve read so few to make a fair comparison. The reasons for this have already been well documented so I’ve no intention of regurgitating it here (for those not in the know, see here). I’ve managed a paltry (by my standards) 33 this year, although with a fair wind and a couple of hours this evening I’m hoping it might hit 34! Of those at least 12 are still waiting to be reviewed, and they include some crackers. So in the interest of balance and fairness I shall give a montage shout later to all the books that have entertained, informed, delighted, transported, shocked and generally made me happy this year.

So what are you going to do?  I hear you cry! Well I decided to offer up a general book and blog review of my year, and, looking back, despite all the difficulties it has been a pretty good one – so here goes.

 

Book events

 

Book launch for Whiskey, Tango Foxtrot by Gina Kirkham

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

In July, I toddled off to Waterstones in Liverpool to attend the launch for Gina’s second book, featuring the exploits of  PC Mavis Upton. I’d attended the launch for her first book, the hilarious (and yet also touching)  Handcuffs, Truncheon and A Polyester Thong, in May 2017.  On that occasion I finally had the chance to meet the Urbane author I’d been having my funny, offbeat and sometimes surreal late night Twitter conversations with. Since then, we’ve met up again and had many more funny and offbeat conversations (thankfully not always in the public domain) and I’m happy to now call her a friend. I was therefore delighted to see Gina taking the stage again to bring book two into the world. Having ‘sold out’ of books at the previous event, I was pleased to see that Waterstones had learnt their lesson, and Gina was kept busy signing books to the delight of the once again, supportive and impressive turn out. The books are as funny and warm as Gina, and I wholeheartedly recommend them. Sadly the review of the first and reading of the second fell victim to my annus horribilis  but that will be rectified.

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Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival – Harrogate 

A busy month for me in July as I also attended the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.  This was my second attendance having loved it so much last year. I’ve already written up my review of this so rather than repeat, I’ll share the link and leave you with a mini montage of my memories. Needless to say, my accommodation is already booked for next year. My OH will be putting in an appearance next time and my friend Sheila will be coming along with another friend, so the more, the merrier!

 

East Riding Festival of Words

While the festival took place over several days and venues, my interest was in the Dead Good Day series of panels which took place in Beverley on 20th Oct. The day was hosted by crime author (and fellow Hullensian) Nick Quantrill, another one who didn’t move quick enough to escape the Five on Friday net! The day was a brilliant series of panels featuring some of my favourite’s namely Stephen Booth, Doug Johnstone, Luca Veste, Stuart Neville, Chris Brookmyre & Marisa Haetzman (aka Ambrose Parry), Val McDermid, Mark Billingham and David Mark. If that wasn’t enough the day was rounded off in the evening by a concert featuring the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers. A fabulous day for what has to have been the best £25 I’ve ever spent (just don’t mention the book purchases). In addition I got to meet up again with the lovely Anne Cater and her partner.

 

A Year of Firsts

My First Author/Blogger Meet Up

While I’ve clearly met other authors and bloggers at various book events, I’d never attended an officially designated author/blogger meet up. So in September, putting on my bravest face and wearing my ‘I’m not nervous at all’ attitude I caught the trains to Stoke on Trent. Here I met up with my fellow attendees at the event hosted by Kerry Ann Parsons and Steph Lawrence at the North Stafford Hotel. Needless to say it was a lovely event. I met some old friends which settled my nerves and enabled me to present a fairly normal and competent face to my new ones –  although maybe they should be the judge of that.  Happily the next one is already in my diary for the New Year. Should you fancy joining us it’s at the same venue on 16th February between 11am and 4pm if you want to drop in.

 

My First Book Cover Quote 

This year saw my first ever cover quote – I was delighted, excited and proud in equal measure. Thank you Liza Perrat for the privilege and trusting me to grace the cover of The Swooping Magpie. It’s a great read and you can read my review here.

Swooping Magpie

First ‘interview’ appearance on another blog

Many thanks to Caryl over on Mrs Bloggs’ Books who kindly invited me to a special Christmas Afternoon Tea. I’ve never featured on anyone else’s blog before (other than a blog post link) so it was really special to be asked. It made a change to reveal my thoughts on something other than books (or my health) and I really appreciated the invite.

 

Blogging Highlights

 

Nomination and Award in Annual Bloggers Bash Awards

I was surprised, not to mention, delighted to have been nominated for the award of Most Inspirational Blog in the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards. When the results were announced I was even more delighted to have been awarded second place. As my friend and fellow (far more prolific) blogger Alison Drew came first, it was an honour. Many thanks to all who voted for me.

 

Most viewed blog post

My most viewed blog post (not just this year, but ever) was a piece I posted in June called Privilege vs Entitlement. It came about as a result of various episodes of blogger bashing (not to me personally) and a week of various blogger related Twitter storms. I normally scroll by and don’t get involved, but just occasionally I feel the need to vent and this was one of them. It wasn’t planned, it was an off the cuff response typed up while I waited for my friend to arrive before we went off the theatre that night, then away on a reading retreat for the following two days. It clearly hit a nerve and the number of positive responses it invoked was heartening. Less so was the thought that perhaps I’m wasting my time planning and preparing posts lol.

 

Favourite personal achievement

This was an easy one, it has to be the growing success of my First on Friday features. When the first one went live in August 2017, it had been the result of producing a Q&A that was a little bit different. I didn’t anticipate that it would still be running well over a year later, and for the past 3 months become a weekly rather than fortnightly feature. My biggest excitement had to be asking Linwood Barclay and not being turned down. The fact that he did a ‘special’ mini version for me was just epic. Having so many great crime authors at Harrogate agree to take part and actually follow through has also helped to grow the audience for the feature. I know many people now look forward to reading the varied responses and it has introduced readers to new authors which is a result. I shall be endeavouring to maintain the feature and have a list of authors in the pipeline, so here’s to 2019!

My Reading Year

As previously mentioned this will be a pictorial shout out to the lovely books I’ve read this year. All of them worth a read.

Book Subscriptions

October saw the demise of the Bookchoice subscription service offering both e-book and audio book choices. This had been a fantastic service offering excellent choices and value for money. From the beginning I’d never really understood how the model could work as I didn’t see where the money was being made. Perhaps it needed a much bigger take up for the economics to pan out, I see that it’s still operational in other areas. It was good while it lasted and left me looking at other ways to part with my money. This year saw me take up two new (to me) book subscription services.

 

The Unbound Reading Club

This was a new initiative launched in the summer by Unbound, a crowdfunded publishing initiative. Essentially they are a  team of publishers, writers, editors, designers – you name it – helping people bring their ideas to life. They take care of the whole process, from manuscript editing to shipping the first editions. As a reader I’ve previously looked at their website and considered helping an author achieve their dream of having a book published. What has normally stopped me, is the number of available projects and sheer indecision. Then along comes the Unbound Reading Club and problem solved. This is a feature that allows procrastinators like me, to help make books happen without having to make a direct choice.

The cost is a £25 per year and for that you’ll receive a free e-book per month. The selection so far has been interesting and varied and I’m more than happy with the choices. A fuller review of the service can be found here. Meanwhile, have a look at the books I’ve received so far.

 

Reading in Heels

The Reading in Heels subscription box costs £10 per month (plus p&p of £2.40) and comprises a paperback book, the expert edit and membership of the digital book club. Rather controversially they chose to sell their service by telling subscribers to expect the best in contemporary, literary fiction – never chick lit or crime… This of course was not well received in some quarters, but it was one of the reasons I decided to subscribe. However, before you all take umbrage, it’s precisely because I do read crime and chick lit (though I hate the term) that I chose to subscribe. By avoiding these genres I felt this service was more likely to offer me something I hadn’t already bought. The expert edit is a monthly surprise of  3-4 beauty and lifestyle treats. This latter is a little extra that I really look forward to, and really adds to the value of the box.

I’ve not done formal unboxings of the offerings so far, but fellow blogger Karen, at Books and Me! has so I’ve linked to her posts for October, November and December to give you an idea of what to expect.

 

 

So that was an over view of my year. If you’re still with me so far, many thanks – I think you deserve a stiff drink now! I very much appreciate all the love and support my little blog has recieved over the year. I used to think of myself as a reader that wrote reviews and not a blogger, but as the reviews have been few and far between and people still keep coming back, maybe I can call myself a blogger after all. It puts me in some very good company and it’s a happy place to be.

All that’s left is to wish you all the very best for the coming year. I’m sure it won’t be without it’s challenges or opportunities (depending on your viewpoint)  – damn I promised not to mention Brexit, but whatever it brings I hope it includes good health, happiness and lots of reading!

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Five on Friday with Jill Doyle of Jill’s Book Cafe @JillsBookCafe

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A bit of a departure this week – you get to hear from me. As we’re rapidly approaching Christmas I decided to give my authors a break and not let them have to worry about sharing posts and responding to notifications. Plus, having inflicted these questions on others it seemed only fair that I put myself through the process too. The one thing I agreed quite quickly on, is that the music choices are the hardest – especially when you’re of a more advanced age as there’s even more musical memories. Anyway here goes.

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Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?

 

Scarlet Ribbons by Harry Belafonte – I’d never actually heard Harry Belafonte sing this until I searched it via YouTube several years ago. Before that, the only person I’d heard sing it was my mum. She would sing me to sleep with this when I was little. Spookily having decided on Wednesday evening on my music choices I heard it on the Radio on Thursday morning. We listen to RTE Radio 1 between 12 – 1pm on weekdays and this was played – what were the chances? I will admit I had a little weep.

Young Girl by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap –  I loved this record from the first time I heard it being played on Top of the Pops (though as a 10-year-old had no clue what the lyrics were about). Even now when I hear those opening bars I’m taken straight back to Hull in 1968. Saturday morning junior disco at the Locarno ballroom, cowbells, and skinny rib jumpers. I should say if any pop quiz features music from 1968 I’m your woman.

Dancing Queen by Abba – What can I say, the ultimate pop song that’s still guaranteed to get me on the dance floor. In 1976 I was that Dancing Queen, albeit aged 18 and not 17. The Locarno ballroom had been re-named Tiffany’s and I was there strutting my stuff with my bestie Jill.

Vienna by Ultravox – Not only did it also feature Midge Ure, who I’d been a little bit in love with since his Slik days (something I’m sure he’d like to forget) it also takes me back to my student days. I went to University as a mature student, having decided that life as an articled accounts clerk was not really me. At the time record was out I’d also just started going out with Vince, who, incidentally, hates this song as much as I love it. Despite this I still married him!

Despacito by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee –  I love this song and the genre of music it represents. There is something about Latin music that just makes you want to dance and sing along. I often have it on repeat when I’m in on my own as I sing my way through cooking tea. I also tell myself it helps with my Spanish, though I suspect not.

 

Highlight five things (apart from family and friends) you would find it hard to live without

 

Tea – I’ve nearly always got a cup on the go. Just as well given that I’m called Mrs Doyle. One of the hardest things about my chemotherapy treatment was my inability to drink tea, It just tasted awful. The first time I was able to drink a cup of tea again felt amazing.

Books – I don’t think I need to say more.

Music – I love all sorts of music so there’s always something to suit my mood. That said, the more upbeat the better would be my normal choice.

Chocolate – Another one that’s self-explanatory.

Jewellery – more specifically earrings. I’ve got over 300 pairs.

 

Can you offer the five pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?

 

Don’t change to please others – just be yourself.

Be nicer to your mum and dad – they’re really not the enemy. You won’t believe it now, but they were young once. When you get older you’ll see their advice was not borne out of the desire to thwart your wishes.

Choose your boyfriends more wisely.

Don’t read those horror books that result in your being scared stiff in the dark.

When you’re crossing the road and hear that car beeping it’s horn DO NOT turn around. The corner of that concrete lamp post is far harder than your head and you’ll look a bugger in the Sunday School outing photographs.

 

Tell us five things that most people don’t know about you

 

I’ve kissed Michael Flatley

I’ve cycled from Fatehpur Sikri to Pushkar across the Rajasthan desert.

I used to play in a brass band.

I qualified as an aromatherapist, masseuse and reflexologist while considering a career change that never happened.

I have an MA in Local History.

 

What are the first five things you’d have on your bucket list?

 

Bizarrely, as I set this question, I don’t actually have a bucket list. I have a fear that dreaming about things I’d like to do, would be depressing if I never got the chance to do them. To a degree my theory was put to the test when I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Before knowing what the outcome would be, I did feel that if the worst was to happen I’d had a good life. I’ve visited amazing places, taken my chances and opportunities and would have no regrets about things I hadn’t done. I know that makes me sound very smug, but I don’t mean it to.

That said, there are of course things it would be great to do.

I’d like to see the Northern Lights.

I’d like to really get to grips with Spanish.

I’d like to visit the Tower of London (despite numerous visits to London I’ve never done it).

I’d like to spend some time at Loch Ness as I’ve always hoped that Nessie really does exist.

I’d like to make inroads into my enormous book mountain (upwards of 3500 titles).

 

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You’ll all be pleased to know that the normal Five on Friday service will be resumed in the New Year. Many thanks for joining me on Fridays to read this feature, I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I have.

So until then, I hope you all have the Christmas you desire and here’s to a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful New Year.

 

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