Sundays in bed with ………Still Life

Sundays in bed with is a meme hosted by Midnight Book Girl but I came across it recently on Jill’s Book Blog. It is simply a chance to share the book that is by your bed at the moment (or that you wish was by your bed).

And breathe! After a very hectic week of working and travelling to Derby to perform at the theatre, it’s lovely to just relax. And an extra hour in bed too! That means an extra hour for reading.

Still Life by Sarah Winman

Blurb:
It’s 1944 and in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together.

Ulysses Temper is a young British solider and one-time globe-maker, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the ruins and relive her memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view.

These two unlikely people find kindred spirits in each other and Evelyn’s talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses mind that will shape the trajectory of his life – and of those who love him – for the next four decades.

Moving from the Tuscan Hills, to the smog of the East End and the piazzas of Florence, Still Life is a sweeping, mischievous, richly-peopled novel about beauty, love, family and fate.

I have to say that at the moment, this one really isn’t doing anything for me. It’s classed as ‘Literary Fiction’ and I’m never quite sure what that means but the genres that I really enjoy such as crime and fantasy definitely aren’t classed as such. Maybe that is saying something about the type of books I enjoy. To me, this all seems a bit detached and the characters aren’t grabbing me so far. It should be a novel that I love as it’s a sweeping historical epic but I’m not really engaged with it so far.

I remember feeling the same way about Stonor some years ago when everyone was raving about that one and I didn’t really feel anything for it. I’ll read some more later and see how I feel than.

If anyone is interested, here’s a picture of myself and my fellow courtesans in our performance of Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum yesterday. I’m on the left of the centurion😃

Happy Sunday Reading everyone!

Stacking the Shelves – 14

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The weekend has arrived already and it’s time for another post about Stacking the shelves.  This is a meme hosted by Reading Reality and details are on her blog. The gorgeous graphic is also used courtesy of the site.

My stacking the shelves posts are all about the books that I get from my local library. Libraries are continually under threat of closure or reduced hours but they are such an important way of getting books into people’s hands that they need supporting. By highlighting the amazing books that I pick up every week, I hope to inspire maybe just one person to visit their library and borrow a book

I’m very excited by the books in this week’s haul from my library. Two of my reservations have arrived and another couple of books which definitely look interesting.

Still Life by Sarah Winman
This has been on my TBR for ages. A young soldier and a seventy year old art historian meet in the cellar of a ruined Tuscan villa in the end days of WWII as bombs fall around them. Their meeting shapes the life of the soldier and those who love him.
I have heard great things about this book and can’t wait to read it.

State of Terror by Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny
I love Louise Penny’s Three Pines novels and I’m always open to a good political thriller so I’m hoping for good things from this book. And I’ve only just spotted that she spells her name with two ls!

One by One by Ruth Ware
Members of a company meet in a luxury chalet in Switzerland when one of them disappears. Another mystery novel which sounds brilliant.

The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lyon Barnes
I picked this one up because I have seen it so often on social media over the past couple of months. I might read it or maybe not. It is the sequel to an earlier novel which I haven’t read so it will depend how much sense it makes on its own. The beauty of the library is that there is no pressure to read the books.

So these are the books that I have added to my stack this week. I also still have 13 Net Galley books to read. I didn’t manage to stick to my not requesting any more books resolution so still don’t have an 80% review rating. Maybe by the end of this week!

Happy Reading everyone.

WWW Wednesday 27th October

It’s Wednesday again and so it must be time for WWW Wednesday. This is one of my favourite memes and I love taking part in it and reading everybody else’s posts. It’s currently hosted by Sam and it can be found on her blog Taking on a world of words which can be found here. The idea of WWW Wednesday is just to answer three questions about what you are reading, have just finished and are about to read so here goes for this week.

What are you currently reading?

I have been waiting for this for ages and was so pleased when it turned up at the library last week I love the Inspector Gamache series and am really enjoying this new one. It’s set in the winter of 2020 as countries are emerging from lockdown and is completely absorbing. Louise Penny’s books aren’t books that you can rush through. You need to spend time and read every sentence carefully.

What have you recently finished reading?

I loved Home by Penny Parkes and my review is here. I also really enjoyed Strictly by Julie Wassmer. The books are set by the sea in Whitstable on the South Coast where Pearl Nolan runs a successful restaurant as well as being a part time private detective. A crime series with likeable characters set by the sea ticks lots of boxes for me and this latest one was a good addition to the series.

What do you intend to read next?

The Night of Many Endings by Melissa Payne
I read about this on Carol’s blog here and it sounded brilliant so I bought it on Kindle and have it ready to read next.

After that, as I seem to have survived a whole week without reading a fantasy book, I might have to see what’s next on my Net Galley shelf.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Home – A review

Home by Penny Parkes

I really loved this book.

Anna graduated from Oxford with a first-class degree but has spent the next decade as a house sitter, looking after other people’s homes and pets. She doesn’t actually have a home of her own and her personal belongings are kept in a storage unit.

We meet Anna as she is house sitting in Oxford to attend her friend’s wedding. The house sitting goes disastrously wrong and from this incident, Anna’s carefully organised life begins to fall to pieces.

The story is told mainly in the present day, 2019, but also in the past where we see Anna as a child going into the foster system and her different placements as she grows up. We can see how her childhood experiences have affected the choices she has made as an adult. Anna is afraid of making commitments to either people or places in case something goes wrong but she gradually begins to see that she cannot continue to live her life in that way. Her journeys, both as a child in the Care system and as an adult are poignant and there are some really touching moments. She feels incredibly real as a character and you really want her to find where she truly belongs.

The novel is beautifully written. As well as Anna, Penny Parkes has created some totally believable characters. Kate is the best friend that anyone could wish for and I loved Marjorie, Henry and Callie too.  The locations also play a huge part in the novel, from the idyllic coastal setting to Bath and London and finally back to Oxford. Each setting, even the lock up unit where Anna keeps her possessions, is vividly described.

Home really touches your heart strings and makes you think about family and friendships as well as what it is that makes a home. I loved reading this book and seeing Anna gradually grow and change. I felt that the ending was perfect and avoided being too ‘Happy ever after’ while resolving the important issues.

Definitely recommended!

Sundays in bed with………….Home

Sundays in bed with is a meme hosted by Midnight Book Girl but I came across it recently on Jill’s Book Blog. It is simply a chance to share the book that is by your bed at the moment (or that you wish was by your bed).

This week it’s back home again but it’s all a bit rushed as we’re frantically rehearsing A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum by Sondheim which we are performing next weekend. Costumes are all sorted and lines mostly learned so it’s just a matter of rehearsing and more rehearsing. Reading in my spare time is a real break from the music.

Home by Penny Parkes

Blurb:
Anna Wilson travels the world as a professional housesitter – stepping into other people’s lives – caring for their homes, pets and sometimes even neighbours. Living vicariously.

 
But all Anna has ever really wanted is a home of her own – a proper one, filled with family and love and happy memories. If only she knew where to start.
 
Growing up in foster care, she always envied her friends their secure and carefree lives, their certainty and confidence. And, while those same friends may have become her family of choice, Anna is still stuck in that nomadic cycle, looking for answers, trying to find the courage to put down roots and find a place to call home.
 
Compelling, rich and evocative, Home is Anna’s journey to discovering that it isn’t where you settle down that matters, but the people you have around you when you do

I can’t imagine not having a place that you call home. Whether it’s just a bed sit or a detached house in the country, I truly think that everyone needs a space of their own. The idea of someone choosing not to have that seems really strange to me.

Anna’s story is told through chapters about her current life as a 30 year old house sitter interspersed with chapters showing her growing up as a child in the fostering system.

The story begins in Oxford in 2019 where she is house sitting and also attending her best friend’s wedding. Anna is anxious and seems to be on edge all the time. She even wants to slip into the church at the back at her friends funeral. She actually seems to have a lot in common with Albert in last week’s book. I wonder if people avoiding social interaction is a common theme in books recently?

The chapters that show Anna as a bewildered child in the care system are so sad but then her first foster placement is with Marjorie who is just such an amazing character. You would want every child to have a placement like that where they can grow up happily and securely.

Obviously, things don’t go smoothly for long. The current house sitting job goes disastrously wrong and her foster placement ends when Marjorie becomes ill. I’ve left Anna just starting a new house sitting job by the sea and can’t wait to see where the story goes next.

Stacking the Shelves 13

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The weekend has arrived already and it’s time for another post about Stacking the shelves.  This is a meme hosted by Reading Reality and details are on her blog. The gorgeous graphic is also used courtesy of the site.

This week we’re back to normal and my stacking the shelves post is all about the books that I get from my local library. Libraries are continually under threat of closure or reduced hours but they are such an important way of getting books into people’s hands that they need supporting. By highlighting the amazing books that I pick up every week, I hope to inspire maybe just one person to visit their library and borrow a book.

Having not been to the library for a week, I’m now all caught up with my library books and ready to read this week’s haul.

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny
This is the latest in her brilliant Inspector Gamache series and I’ve been waiting to read it for quite a while. I’m also intrigued about the novel that she has written with Hilary Clinton, State of Terror, so might have to see if the library has that one too.

Home by Penny Parkes
The story of a woman who doesn’t have a home of her own but spends her life house and pet sitting for other people. I can’t imagine not having a home of my own so definitely interested in this one.

The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan
I was attracted by the cover of this one and it sounds interesting. It’s set in Edinburgh in 1822 and seems to centre around the botanic gardens and a rare plant.

Strictly Murder by Julie Wassmer
I really enjoy this crime series set in Whitstable and a murder mystery set in a dance schools sounds interesting.

A nice mixed bag this week with a couple of books that I’m sure I will enjoy and a couple of new authors to try.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

MG Takes on Thursday

This brilliant meme belongs to to Book Craic who hosts it on her blog here . Each week the aim is to celebrate Middle Grade books, those amazing books being written for 9-12 year olds. The idea is that you choose a book, post a picture of the cover and also show the publisher and illustrator. Then turn to page 11 and find your favourite sentence on that page. After that, describe the book in three words ( I always find this really hard) and finally, write your review or post a link to your review of the book. What could be easier especially as there are so many fabulous books being published at the moment?

This week I am celebrating Worst Holiday Ever by Charlie Higson

Worst Holiday Ever by Charlie Higson. Published by Penguin Books

My favourite quote from page 11 – I can’t wait to be grown up and not have to worry about everything all the time.

This book in three words: Funny, Disasters, Shyness

I am always on the look out for books to tempt my reluctant or less confident readers, many of whom are boys, so when I saw this by Charlie Higson, I had to get it.

It’s the story (told in the first person) of Stan’s holiday with his so-called friend, Felix. Stan has only been invited because all of Felix’s other friends already have holidays planned and he is convinced that going on holiday abroad, with people that he doesn’t know can only be a disaster.

The story goes through the arrival at the airport, the journey and the actual holiday all seen through Stan’s eyes in the same style as Wimpy Kid and several others. Stan is shy and hates being away from home and his mum and to deal with his anxiety, he makes lists. Several of these appear in the book but I really loved his Duck-it list, the exact opposite of everyone else’s bucket lists.

As the holiday goes on, Stan finds that the things that terrified him are less scary than he thought. He also begins to notice other people a lot more and realises that maybe adults don’t know everything after all.

I really enjoyed this book and I can definitely see it being enjoyed by some of my Year 6 who will really identify with Stan. It is definitely aimed at the 10+ market as there is some mild swearing and development of Stan’s romance with Jess (which he didn’t even realise was a thing until she told him). It’s light hearted and funny but also deals with some big issues. The main one is Stan dealing with his shyness and anxiety but the book also deals with different family relationships especially between Dads and sons.

12 Days to save Christmas – A review

Poppy loves Christmas and has this year’s celebrations all sorted out. However, a month before Christmas Eve, her boyfriend Greg drops a bombshell and tells her that he feels they should break up saying that she is too needy. They will continue to share the flat until the end of the year and during that time there will be 12 days when Greg and Poppy will be in the flat together so Poppy has those days to try and convince him that he is wrong.

In a bid to show him that she is not needy, she ends up volunteering at a local community centre run by Theo and also joins a choir. As she becomes more involved with the centre, its staff and visitors, she begins to think more about her own past and to consider who she really is.

I really enjoyed this and completed it in one sitting. There are some very funny moments as well as some touching ones. One or two of the characters felt a bit like stock characters and didn’t come across as real but I loved Poppy and her journey through this novel. I felt that there were some real issues raised in this novel about the personalities that we show to other people and how real they are as well as it being a real romantic comedy. I also loved the ending which I felt was hopeful rather than being an outright happy ending.

Thank you to the publishers and Net Galley for allowing me to read an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. 12 Days to save Christmas was published on 19th October.

WWW Wednesday – 20th October

It’s Wednesday again and so it must be time for WWW Wednesday. This is one of my favourite memes and I love taking part in it and reading everybody else’s posts. It’s currently hosted by Sam and it can be found on her blog Taking on a world of words which can be found here. The idea of WWW Wednesday is just to answer three questions about what you are reading, have just finished and are about to read so here goes for this week.

What are you currently reading?

Terciel and Elinor by Garth Nix is my current read and I’m loving it. It’s an MG or teen read and is a prequel to the Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen books about the Old Kingdom that my daughter loved as a teenager.

What have you recently finished reading?

These are my three most recent reads.
I reviewed The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle here.


The Ivory Key is another YA book which I got from Net Galley. It’s a fantasy quest story with an Indian setting about 4 siblings who each want to find the Ivory Key for their own purposes. This was a great debut fantasy with a really interesting magic system.


Beyond is a prequel to Mercedes Lackey’s brilliant Valdemar series and is another Net Galley read. I’m having a push on my Net Galley shelf this week to try and get my review stats up to something close to 80%. I will definitely buy this one to add to my Valdemar collection when it’s published.

What are you likely to read next?

Us Three by Ruth Jones is the last of my library books that I have to read before I am up to date. It’s a contemporary book about three friends over 4 decades and will make a good change from the mainly YA fantasy books that I have been reading this week.

I have really tried to tackle my TBR pile this week and haven’t been to the library or requested any more books from Net Galley. That situation won’t last though!!

What’s on your WWW Wednesday this week?

Blogger Stats Book Tag – Tag Tuesday

I’ve just spotted this tag in a blog post by Esther at Cosy with Books but it was created by Stuart at Always Trust in Books and it seemed like a fun way to pass a bit of time on a dull, damp Tuesday. So here are 20 questions and answers about my blog.

What are the last three books you read?

And I loved them all.

Spoilers or spoiler free?
Definitely spoiler free. I hate spoilers so don’t want to put them in my blog.

A book you read in one sitting?
Oooh, way too many as curled up reading a book is my preferred way to spend an evening. I read Beyond in one sitting last week.

How long have you been Book Blogging?
Not long. About six months I think.

Your favourite genre
Definitely Fantasy. I love Crime thrillers and romance too but Fantasy is my first love.

How many books on your TBR?
I never used to have a TBR!!!! Now I think I have about 20 including Net Galley and library books.

A book you did not finish

I got really bored with this and just couldn’t be bothered to read it.

Recent awards or milestones
None so that’s a quick one to answer

Average number of books you read in a month
About 20. It’s definitely gone up since I’ve started book blogging

Best interaction with an author you enjoy
I’ve had some lovely interactions with children’s book authors such as S F Said and Piers Torday on Twitter.

Top Three Publishers
That’s a really tricky one. Titan and Hodder for adult books and I love Nosy Crow’s children’s books.

Social Media sites your blog uses
Just Twitter.

Average amount of time you spend networking
About an hour a day or maybe a bit more. Now I’m not working full time I have more free time.

Most comfortable blogging position
On my sofa using my laptop

Music or Quiet?
Definitely music. Often just the radio which might be Classic FM or the local pop station. Or I might be listening to musical soundtracks. Loving listening to Six! at the moment.

Can you sum up your blogging style in 5 words
I don’t think I have one 😃

A blog you looked up to starting out
Book Craic and Wendy at The Bashful Bookworm definitely both inspired me but there are so many others too.

The best book you have reviewed so far
Definitely The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie but I haven’t done that many.

Best piece of blogging advice
No advice to offer but love looking at advice that more experienced bloggers have to give.

Thanks for reading this. Have you done this tag too? Let me know in the comments.