Sunday, July 17, 2022

My June 2022 Reads

I have had no uninterrupted time to write about my trip to Cornwall (I will tease you with one picture) but I did manage to read several books while I was meant to be studying in London. I am paying for it now: my term paper is due on Friday and is only half done!  My favorite book of the month was From a Distance, a library discard I picked up for 20p.
Daphne du Maurier's private beach

A Rural Affair by Catherine Alliott (2011). Poppy Shilling may have fantasized about her boring husband slipping on ice on his way to get the paper or contracting malaria from a mosquito bite, but she never imagined Phil would actually have a freak accident and die, leaving her a widow with two children. This was an amusing book, one of my 5-library-discards-for £1. As I recall, Alliott was writing better-than-average chick lit long before Bridget Jones’s Diary made it a trend.
From a Distance by Raffaella Barker (2014). This was one of the library discards I got at the Shoe Lane Library and it turned out to be my favorite read of the month. It starts with a soldier returning from WWII who isn’t ready to return to his family and fiancĂ©e in Norfolk and impulsively gets on a train to Cornwall where he falls in love. In the present, a man inherits a lighthouse and unexpectedly becomes part of the community. This “then and now” genre is very popular at the moment and not everyone handles it well but I liked how Barker brought both narratives together, even if I disagreed with the characters’ choices.

Faking Friends by Jane Fallon (2018). Amy is an aspiring actress who finally got a part in an American television show. But when she pays a surprise trip home to her fiancé in London, Jack is out, but it's clear another woman has been making herself at home in their flat. When she realizes it is her best friend, Amy wants revenge! This was a silly but entertaining book I checked out of the Marylebone Library.

I Have Something to Tell You by Susan Lewis (2021). Lawyer Jessica Wells has it all. A successful career, loving husband Tom and a family she adores. Then she is asked to defend a man accused of murdering his wife and her life starts to unravel. This was a quick read, quite improbable, set in Bristol where I had hoped to go (I wound up only seeing the bus station), which I checked it out of the Marylebone Library.

The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil (2008). I have a pile of books that need to be read but that I am fairly sure I would not reread subsequently, so they are perfect for trips. I took this from the top of the pile to read on the fight to London and it was so generic I did not realize until several chapters in that I had already read it! Heroine escapes the memory of her cheating husband by moving to a rural part of England and taking over her grandmother's faded yarn shop. Her neighbors, grandmother, and a visiting movie star made this a cut above the average.  I now see there is a sequel.
A Winter Memory by Lulu Taylor (2021). Another “then and now” book but better than average although not up to Susanna Kearsley standard! Helen fell for Angus, the younger of the Ballintyre brothers as a student, but it is clear she was dazzled by the Ballintyres’ grand home in Scotland and her marriage has not been happy. When Angus loses his job and the family takes refuge at Ballintyre, Helen is faced with secrets of the past and present that need to be unraveled before she can move on. I found this book at the Marylebone Library and enjoyed it, despite predictability in certain places.  I read another book by Taylor on the flight home.

Historical Fiction

In a Far Country by Linda Holeman (2008) – When Pree Fincastle, daughter of impoverished British missionaries in India, is left alone and destitute when her parents die. She embarks on a journey in search of Kai, the son of her mother's ayah, and the only person she can trust. Her experiences trying to survive are harrowing but she is not a very likable character. I had high hopes for this historical novel which I bought during the pandemic but did not really enjoy it although the writing was strong and the research seemed impeccable.  Too gritty?  It's very un PC to prefer books about the Raj!
The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin (2021) – On paper, this book had everything: a young woman who heads to London at the beginning of WWI to live with her mother’s closest friend and gets a job at a bookstore. However, something was missing and it wasn’t just that Grace doesn’t like to read! Maybe it was too predictable or too carefully researched. My review.

The House Across the Street by Lesley Pearse (2018) – When the house across the street burns down, Katy Speed is upset because she was fond of her neighbor Gloria and she wonders about the mysterious black car she used to see lurking about. After Katy moves to London for a new job, her father is arrested and she decides to investigate and find the real killer. This was one of my 5-library-discards-for £1 and was oddly set in the 60s, as I recall. It was a very light read by a popular author.
The Stranger by Kate Riordan (2018) – When I saw this book at Waterstone's about three Land Girls sent to an estate in Cornwall during WWII, I thought it would be perfect for my friend Cath. Naturally, I read it first! All are hiding secrets: one woman is from an aristocratic family and is something of a troublemaker, one longs to recapture a happy trip to Cornwall as a teen when she fell in love, and the third does not know her existence is the biggest secret of all (although this was quite obvious to the reader). I enjoyed this although the ending was so abrupt I had to reread it several times, and will look for more by this author.

The Scandals of an Innocent by Nicola Cornick (2009). I couldn’t get past the premise of this book, that former maid Alice, whose employer left her a fortune, has entered society and is being blackmailed into marriage by Lord Miles Vickery. Alice was such a doormat and the rest of the plot equally absurd – not one of Cornick’s best. This was another of my 5-library-discards-for £1, and I donated it to the Marylebone Library.


As Time Goes By by Mary Higgins Clark (2016) Audio.  TV reporter Delaney Wright tries to find her birth mother just as she is assigned to cover the high-profile trial of Betsy Grant, accused of murdering her wealthy husband. There were no surprises here but it was pleasant to listen to as I drove to work.

In preparation for my trip to the real Green Knowe, I got The Children of Green Knowe out of the library and read it on the train to Hemingford Grey. Of course, I should have brought my own copy and asked Diana Boston to sign it but my luggage was so heavy already. I am looking forward to Lucy Boston: An Artist in Everything She Did, which I bought there. How she had time to manage the Manor, write books, and sew exquisite quilts, I cannot imagine!  


LyzzyBee said...

Some lovely ones here, I do fancy From a Distance. I wonder if the Gil McNeil is the one also published as Divas Don't Knit (moves to the Kent coast, takes over grandmother's yarn shop, there is a famous person) and then a sequel Needles and Pearls. Seems unlikely she wrote two pairs so similar so must be the same?

CLM said...

Definitely the same! Have you read the second one? Worth my hunting up?

I used to argue against changing the UK titles when I worked in publishing. It is SO annoying if you purchase a book you already own as I have done several times. Almost as bad: when you see something by an author you really like and think it is a new or unread book, then realize just retitled. I loved the Quantock Hills series by Ruth Elwin Harris and had a hard time getting them (pre-internet, I guess). Then they were published here with new titles some time later and was so excited before I realized I owned them all already.

Cath said...

From a Distance sounds really interesting, must look that up. Just finished Miss Austen which I thought was a delight and am now almost finished Mansfield Park which I feel very ambivilent about. Not my favourite Jane Austen. Will answer your email asap.

CLM said...

Cath, I think From a Distance is one of the ones I left with you. I have been listening to The Shell Seekers as a drive but forgot most of it is not set in Cornwall -- great book nonetheless. I have put Miss Austen on reserve and suggested to my book group that we read it before the movie!

Lark said...

Gorgeous photo! I wish I had a private beach like that.

Karen K. said...

You've definitely piqued my curiosity about du Maurier's private beach -- it's exactly like I pictured the cove at Manderlay where Rebecca kept her ill-fated boat. Very much looking forward to you posting about Cornwall, a place I've always wanted to visit.

TracyK said...

The Stranger sounds the best to me. That is a lot of books to have read while you were mostly traveling, studying, touring, and blogging. Amazing!

I am reading The English Wife by Adrienne Chinn right now, which you sent to me. So far liking it a lot.

Cath said...

Oh, it is one of the books you left, only with a very different cover! Thanks for pointing that out. LOL!

LyzzyBee said...

Yes, I think it's worth it ... hang on, yes, I still liked it, not a great detailed review as from 2008 and might have some spoilers ...

Jeannike said...

Hello, I hope you get notice of this very late comment to your June 2022 Reads about Green Knowe - you might like to track down a lengthy article in Gardens Illustrated, October 2023, "Patchwork of Color", all about Lucy M. Boston and the Manor at Hemingford Grey with gorgeous photos of the gardens and details of the plantings.

CLM said...

Thank you, Jeannike, I will try to access a copy. I appreciate the suggestion.