Letters from Lighthouse Cottage by Ali McNamara #bookreview (@AliMcNamara) @LittleBrownUK

isbn9780751558647

“The sun is shining in the quiet little seaside town of Sandybridge

Sandybridge is the perfect English seaside town: home to gift shops, tea rooms and a fabulous fish and chip shop. And it’s home to Grace – although right now, she’s not too happy about it.

Grace grew up in Sandybridge, helping her parents sort junk from vintage treasures, but she always longed to escape to a bigger world. And she made it, travelling the world for her job, falling in love and starting a family. So why is she back in the tiny seaside town she’d long left behind, hanging out with Charlie, the boy who became her best friend when they were teenagers?

It turns out that travelling the world may not have been exactly what Grace needed to do. Perhaps everything she wanted has always been at home – after all, they do say that’s where the heart is…”

Can I first say – how beautiful is this cover? It’s so cute, I just want to jump right into the scene for my next holiday – so I guess, job done by the artist! 10/10 for making me want to pick this book off the shelf and find out what stories are taking place behind this beautiful scene.

This is the first book I have read by Ali McNamara and, luckily, this book more than lives up to its lovely cover. It is a warm, charming, easily readable tale filled with likeable characters and everyday human dilemmas to which we can all relate to some degree.

The central character, Grace, faces the kind of challenges and decisions that we have all faced in some form at some point in our lives. The difference with this story is how she makes her decisions on which forks in the road she will take. I’m not going to spoil the plot for you by revealing what is special about her emotional guide, but the concept of how we all come to make the choices we make in our lives, whether to listen to our heads or our hearts, whether we should trust our gut instinct or let this be over-ruled by logic, I find really fascinating and I think it is handled in a really interesting and unique way by the author.

Grace’s main dilemma in the book involves her two childhood friends, both of whom happen to be male, and how her feelings for those two men develop through the years, how she recognises and reconciles those changing feelings, and how she can act on them without jeopardising those friendships.

There are very clear consequences in the book as a result of the decisions that Grace makes and a recurring theme in the book is whether, if the result of a decision seems at first to be negative, would you go back and change it, if you could? Would you, to avoid a short term pain, even if down the line the decision had positive consequences that could not have been foreseen at the time? How do you decide if the unforeseen positives outweigh the negatives? How do you know if making the other decision would have turned out better in the long term? What happens when decisions you take in good faith, turn out to have unfortunate outcomes? This is a really fascinating subject to me, and one that I have contemplated a good deal in my own life, so I really enjoyed seeing it explored in this novel. Grace, in the end,  seems to be a ‘glass half full’ kind of person, which prevents this book straying into some dark and maudlin territory, which I think is the right approach, but is is definitely food for thought in a genre that is sometimes be accused of lacking depth and substance. That accusation won’t stick here.

On a lighter note, as the story alternates between Grace’s present day relationships and her teenage years where these relationships were formed, we get a fun and nostalgic flashback to my teenage heyday of the 1980’s which I really enjoyed.

If I were to make any (very) minor criticism of this book, I would say that some plot points I would like to have seen described or developed in more depth – a more detailed description of the town so I could see it more clearly in my mind’s eye; more details about some periods of her life; the travelling was made a big thing of in the beginning, which piqued my interest but then it was kind of glossed over very quickly; – but I am splitting superficial hairs here.

This is a great example of the contemporary romance genre with a fun hook and some fascinating themes that elevate it above the herd – I found myself considering some very esoteric ideas which I wouldn’t necessarily expect to be addressed by this genre. Ali McNamara walks the line between a light summer read and giving the reader something to think about perfectly. I really, really enjoyed it – it was one of those books that you don’t want to put down – and look forward to reading more by the author.

Letters from Lighthouse Cottage is out now and you can buy a copy here. Ali McNamara’s new book, The Summer of Serendipity is out on 13 July.

 

About the Author

Ali McNamara attributes her over-active and very vivid imagination to one thing – being an only child. Time spent dreaming up adventures when she was young has left her with a head bursting with stories waiting to be told.

When stories she wrote for fun on Ronan Keating’s website became so popular they were sold as a fundraising project for his cancer awareness charity, Ali realised that not only was writing something she enjoyed doing, but something others enjoyed reading too.

Ali lives in Cambridgeshire with her family and two Labradors. When she isn’t writing, she likes to travel, read, and people-watch, more often than not accompanied by a good cup of coffee. Her dogs and a love of exercise keep her sane!

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt #bookreview (@John_Berendt) @HodderBooks

isbn9780340992852

“Genteel society ladies who compare notes on their husbands’ suicides. A hilariously foul-mouthed black drag queen. A voodoo priestess who works her roots in the graveyard at midnight. A morose inventor who owns a bottle of poison powerful enough to kill everyone in town. A prominent antiques dealer who hangs a Nazi flag from his window to disrupt the shooting of a movie. And a redneck gigolo whose conquests describe him as a ‘walking streak of sex’.

These are some of the real residents of Savannah, Georgia, a city whose eccentric mores are unerringly observed – and whose dirty linen is gleefully aired – in this utterly irresistible book. At once a true-crime murder story and a hugely entertaining and deliciously perverse travelogue, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is as bracing and intoxicating as half-a-dozen mint juleps.”

 

It has taken me a long time to get round to writing a review of this book that I read back in February, having been meaning to read it for a good few years, because I have just been unable to put into words how I really feel about it. I don’t think this is necessarily a negative, more a reflection of how this book has pushed me outside of my normal comfort zone in the types of book I usually choose. This book is very different to almost anything else you will read – a blurred line between fiction and non-fiction, between novel and travel writing, almost impossible to categorise.

This is based on real-life events that took place in the 1980s, although some of the ‘facts’ have been called into question and the author admits that the time line has been altered to make for a better narrative. However, it is a great example of the cliche that ‘facts are stranger than fiction’ and, if we weren’t made aware that the basis of the story was true, you would believe that it came entirely from the over-active imagination of the author.

This is a book of two distinct halves and, to me, felt slightly disjointed because of this. The first half is quite slow and a little heavy-going in places. It is made up entirely of a series of vignettes and character studies of Savannah, Georgia and its colourful residents, when the author is spending part of his time living there. Whilst these are interesting and beautiful in their own right, some of them bear little or no relevance when we get to the meat of the story in the second half of the book. This first half of the book reads mostly as a kind of travelogue – a love letter to this city by a man who was obviously and understandably very drawn to the place, its gothic atmosphere, its eccentric inhabitants and its unique customs and, in this regard, he does an amazing job of bringing the place and the people to vivid life. I defy anyone to read this book and not want to visit Savannah immediately, it is clearly a place like no other.

The second half of the book is totally different. This is where we get to the details of the true crime; the murder of a male prostitute by an eminent, but somewhat unconventional, Savannah socialite and the subsequent FOUR trials it took to decide his guilt or innocence one way or the other. This section of the book is totally riveting, more so because it is fact, not fiction, and it moves a lot quicker than the first half. The writer does a fine job of keeping us in suspense on the issue of the accused’s guilt and the book is an excellent read for any fans of true crime books. This is a cut above the usual salacious approach to true crime writing – this book has real elegance in the portrayal of the murder and the laboured, legal aftermath.

John Berendt is first and foremost a journalist and this really evident in his writing style in this book. He has a very keen eye for detail and a great talent for drawing an attractive and evocative picture of the setting and its inhabitants. I had a very clear image in my head of Savannah and the characters he is describing throughout my reading of the book. However, the downside of his style for me is that the book lacked the flow you would usually expect of a full-length novel and it felt a little more like a series of loosely connected reportage pieces, particularly the first half.

So, I am still undecided as to how I really feel about this book. Am I glad I read it? Yes, definitely, it is 100% worthy of the reader’s time. Did I absolutely love it? No, but I think that is maybe because it was so different to the style of writing I normally choose to read and it defies categorisation and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Would I recommend it to my friends? Yes, I would. I think it was an interesting book that anyone would get something from and any book that challenges our norms is to be encouraged. It does have some flaws, but that doesn’t detract from its value. And its cover is just the PERFECT representation of the book.

Now please excuse me, I’m off to book a flight to Savannah and a ticket to see Lady Chablis at Club One. If you want to know more about her, you’ll need to read the book. You can buy a copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil here.

About the Author

The son of two writers, John Berendt grew up in Syracuse, New York. He earned a B.A. in English from Harvard University, where he worked on the staff of The Harvard Lampoon. After graduating in 1961, he moved to New York City to pursue a career in publishing. Berendt has written for David Frost and Dick Cavett, was editor of New York magazine from 1977 to 1979, and wrote a monthly column for Esquire from 1982 to 1994.

Berendt first traveled to Savannah in the early 1980s. Over the ensuing eight years his visits became more frequent and extended, until he was spending more time in Savannah than in New York.

Part of the appeal, Berendt says, lay in the city’s penchant for morbid gossip.

Since the publication and unprecedented success of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Berendt has become a Savannah celebrity and was even presented with the key to the city.

 

Beach Lawyer by Avery Duff #bookreview

51ySKcRtBHL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_

“After five gruelling years, Robert Worth is just days away from making partner at a powerful Santa Monica law firm. When a client confides in him that senior partner Jack Pierce sexually assaulted her, Robert breaks two of his mentor’s cardinal rules: Never let yourself get emotional about clients. And never make an enemy of Jack Pierce.

Robert crosses Pierce and is fired on the spot, losing not only his job but also his reputation. Advised to go quietly, Robert vows revenge against the ruthless man who betrayed him. But his investigation uncovers a twisted shadow world of sex, infidelity, and deception, where nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted. Only one thing is clear: Pierce will go the limit to keep his secrets.

This straight shooter will need to use every angle if he hopes to win. But could victory come at too high a price?”

From reading the blurb, I was eager to get stuck into this book as I was hoping that I could find a new author to rival to John Grisham. I love a good legal thriller and this book sounded extremely promising. Sadly, it fell very far short of my expectations.

There are multiple issues with this book, beginning with the pacing. This books starts off extremely slowly. I understand that the author is trying to establish the characters and their place in the hierarchy of the law firm as the footing for the story to come. Unfortunately, he chooses to do this by going into tedious detail of the everyday technical running of a law firm, right down to the minutiae of how lawyers record their time for billing purposes. None of this has any bearing on the plot whatsoever and just serves to drag the story to a crawl, right at the point where it should be grabbing our attention. The opening chapters also include a lot of legal jargon which I imagine would be largely incomprehensible to a non-lawyer – even I struggled – and it really didn’t seem necessary to advance the understanding of the story. There also appeared to be some things happening which, as a lawyer, just didn’t ring true to me at all, unless the US legal profession is totally different to the UK one in fundamental ways. This would probably be unnoticeable to people without a legal background but I have never felt like this when reading an American legal thriller before.

I was also excessively annoyed in the opening chapters by some lazy errors; in grammar, in tense and in a very simple calculation on one page which made me wonder if this book had been edited by anyone other than the author at all, and I continued to feel like that throughout the book.

Further problems in the opening chapters came in the guise of over-writing, stilted descriptions and an uncomfortable use of language. To be honest, it made me cringe quite a lot, and again I wondered if this book had been professionally edited. I tried to make allowances for the fact that this is his first novel and, to be fair, it did seem to settle into a better rhythm further on but I guess I set off on the journey with a less than favourable impression from the opening chapters, which was unfortunate.

We then move on to the plot, which is both so twisted and labyrinthine as to be almost incomprehensible by the end and, at the same time, totally lacking in any real action until the very last pages, where a brief flurry is shoe-horned in, in order to fulfil the ‘thriller’ tag. It really was one of the most unevenly paced books I have ever read. There were so many twists in who were the baddies, who were the heroes and what everyone’s motives were for doing what they did that it was almost nonsensical. When it came down to it, I just didn’t really believe that so many unpleasant, selfish, immoral people with devious intent happened to co-exist in one tiny orbit.

The most damning issue of all was the complete lack of empathy I had all the way through with any of the characters. They were all unpleasant, they were all uncharismatic, they were all shallow and self-centred. I could not bring myself to care what became of any of them. That was the biggest problem – by the end of the book I really just did not care what happened, I just wanted it to be over. Basically, it was too much hard work for too little return, not at all what I personally am looking for in a book of this nature.

I really wanted to like this book and I hate giving a negative review but this book was very disappointing and I couldn’t hand on heart recommend it. However, this is just my opinion and it appears from other reviews that many people loved it. May be I went into it with too high an expectation. If you would like to read it and make your own judgement, the book is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Avery Duff was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he attended Baylor School and graduated summa cum laude. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he earned a JD from Georgetown University Law Center. He then joined a prestigious Tennessee law firm, becoming a partner in five years, before moving to Los Angeles. His screenwriting credits include the 2010 heist drama Takers, starring Matt Dillon, Idris Elba, Paul Walker, and Hayden Christensen. Duff lives at the beach in Los Angeles and spends his time writing fiction. Beach Lawyer is his first published novel.

Authors for Grenfell Online Auction #authorsforgrenfell (@hapgoodness @saramegan @mollykh)

author-for-grenfell-logo

Dear friends

The whole country is aware of the awful tragedy that befell Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017 and the plight of the residents who have been left with absolutely nothing and are having to rebuild their lives from scratch.

Today I just wanted to highlight the Authors For Grenfell Tower appeal that has been launched by the literary community. It is an online auction of items and experiences donated by figures across the publishing community in aid of the British Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund to help those residents affected by the fire.

There are some fantastic items on offer, ranging from signed books to afternoon tea at Claridges with David Walliams, and something to suit every pocket and interest. There is also the option just to donate, without bidding on a specific item.

There are now almost 700 items on offer, so I am sure we can all find something that we would like to bid on to help out this great cause.

I am allowing any books acquired by myself as a result of a winning bid in this auction to be an exception to my book acquisition ban for this year to highlight the importance of this cause.

Bids close at 8 pm today – Tuesday 27 June 2017, so please take a look at the website as soon as you can and make whatever bid or contribution you can afford. These people have suffered a horror that most of us cannot even contemplate in our worst nightmares. Let’s join the literary community in their efforts to do what we can to help alleviate their suffering a little bit.

If you want any more convincing of why you should take part in the auction and join the raft of people displaying the most amazing generosity and love for the people of Grenfell Tower in a way that moves me beyond words, please take a look at the comments on Lot 369 – named character in Philip Pullman’s next book.

The auction website is here. Thank you for taking the time to read this and taking part.

The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan #bookreview (@VaseemKhanUK) @HodderBooks

isbn9781473646896

“Mumbai thrives on extravagant spectacles and larger-than-life characters.

But even in the city of dreams, there is no guarantee of a happy ending.

Rising star and incorrigible playboy Vikram Verma has disappeared, leaving his latest film in jeopardy. Hired by Verma’s formidable mother to find him, Inspector Chopra and his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesha, embark on a journey deep into the world’s most flamboyant movie industry.

As they uncover feuding stars, failed investments and death threats, it seems that many people have a motive for wanting Verma out of the picture.

And yet, as Chopra has long suspected, in Bollywood the truth is often stranger than fiction…”

This is the third book in the Baby Ganesh Agency series by Vaseem Khan, but the first one I have read (I’d like to say it’s because I’m a maverick, but really it’s just because of my self-imposed book-buying moratorium and the fact that I was given this as a birthday gift!). It doesn’t appear to matter that I am reading them out of sequence, this book functions perfectly as a standalone novel, but I will definitely be going back to read the first two.

The central character of the novel is Inspector Chopra, a retired police officer-turned-private detective in Mumbai and the plot follows him as he tries to unravel the mystery of the kidnapping of a famous but wayward Bollywood actor. He is helped, and sometimes amusingly hindered, in his efforts by a colourful cast of supporting characters, including his cute little elephant sidekick, Ganesha, about whom there is more than a whiff of the supernatural – he appears to have attributes not bestowed on your average baby elephant.

This book is a light-hearted detective story, along the lines of Alistair McCall Smith’s No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series or the Agatha Raisin books by M.C. Beaton and I believe fans of those series would enjoy Vaseem Khan’s work. The main kidnapping plot is fun and frenzied, with enough twists and turns to keep the grey matter occupied, but the main joys of the book are the characters and the fabulous, exotic setting of Mumbai. The author truly does a wonderful job of bringing all the life and flavour of Mumbai alive in this book, and anyone who likes their stories set in an far-flung location, that is really captured as if it were an additional character in the tale, will not be disappointed.

Inspector Chopra is a character who is very easy to warm to, which is important for the central protagonist in a book of this nature – we need to be rooting for the hero. He is honest, unassuming, moral but very pragmatic and a with a healthy dose of impatience for his old colleagues in the police force and their rules and regulations when they get in the way of his pursuing the case – I really liked that about him. His wife, Poppy, I think perhaps was my favourite character. Not the subservient Indian housewife in a supporting role that you might expect to find, but an independent and feisty woman who is a true partner and support to Chopra, a woman after my own heart. I love writers who include strong and equal female characters in their work.

There is a lovely sub-plot in the book involving flamboyant eunuchs, a long-buried secret and Chopra’s ex-policeman colleague in a ‘fish-out-of-water’ situation that had me grinning from ear to ear. Fantastic fun.

This is a sweet, easy and amusing read with characters you will love, and imbued throughout with all the spice and spectacle of India. If you are looking for a book to warm your cockles and cheer you up, you couldn’t do much better.

The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star is out now and you can buy it here.

About the Author

Vaseem Khan first saw an elephant lumbering down the middle of the road in 1997 when he arrived in India to work as a management consultant. It was the most unusual thing he had ever encountered and served as the inspiration behind his series of crime novels.

He returned to the UK in 2006 and now works at University College London for the Department of Security and Crime Science where he is astonished on a daily basis by the way modern science is being employed to tackle crime. Elephants are third on his list of passions, first and second being great literature and cricket, not always in that order.

The Way Back Home by Freya North #bookreview (@freya_north) @HarperCollinsUK

9780007462285

“One summer, something happened that changed everything forever…

Born and brought up in an artists’ commune in Derbyshire, Oriana Taylor had freedom at her fingertips in a home full of extraordinary people. The Bedwell brothers, Malachy and Jed, shared their childhood and adolescence with Oriana. In the rambling old house and tangled grounds, their dreams and desires could run free.

But too much freedom comes at a price. Something happened the summer they were fifteen. And now, having been gone eighteen years, Oriana is back.

This is their story.”

 

I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to get round to reading this book by Freya North. It was published in 2015 and, being a huge fan of Freya since I first read Sally and always buying her books on publication, it has been sitting on my TBR since then. I have read The Turning Point, which was published last year. I am wondering if I have been subconsciously pushing this down my TBR because of some unfavourable reviews it has been given on Goodreads. If so, it was a mistake – this is Freya North at her best. My apologies, Freya: after all the years we’ve spent together, I should have had more faith in you.

This is the story of Oriana, her childhood growing up in an artists’ colony in Derbyshire, her childhood friendship with two brothers, and the tragic event which drove them apart. Anyone expecting a light, sugar-sweet romance, or a psychological thriller with a twist in the tail would undoubtedly be disappointed in this book. It is neither of those things because that is not, and never has been, what Freya’s writing is about.

What this book is, is typical of Freya’s novels. It is a beautiful and honest portrayal of human emotion, human relationships and human failings. It is bittersweet, moving, genuine–and totally engrossing if you let yourself connect with these characters, who are damaged and far from perfect, but totally real and believable. One of the comments I have read was that people could not relate to the characters because they weren’t totally likeable, particularly Oriana. I think that is part of the genius of Freya’s work – making us care about characters who maybe aren’t immediately warm and cuddly and someone that you would want as a best friend, but are totally plausible and, if you give them time and try and see what Freya is showing you about why they are as they are, you will find that connection with their humanity.

This book is a slow burn, and it is an insight into the minds, thoughts and feelings of the three main protagonists. I guess some people may not appreciate this style of story-telling but it is what gives you that insight into, and connection with, their emotional story. I have seen complaints that the ‘twist’ is too obvious and there is no ‘big reveal’. I think that misses the point. I don’t believe Freya ever meant for the novel to be some big build up to a shocking conclusion, that isn’t her stock in trade. In fact, it is refreshing to read something currently that isn’t hingeing on that particular device to sell itself. This book requires a bit more effort, a bit more emotional involvement on the part of the reader to get the most from it.

I recently read a comment by the author Jane Green, in answer to a question she was asked about the best bit of writing advice she had ever been given. Her reply was that the best advice had been given to her by Freya North and it was to get to know her characters and let them tell the story. Freya obviously practices what she preaches as she writes people as well as, if not better, than almost any writer out there. Her characters are always totally three-dimensional and fully developed and, likeable or not, they are completely authentic in everything they do. And I have never known anyone write such honest sex scenes (although my friends took me to task for a long while after I made this comment and they then read the one involving clowns in Pip, but I stand by my assertion. And no, I won’t go into any more detail, you will have to go and buy it and read it yourselves!). You know these people. If you let yourself invest in their story, you will be rewarded with an intense emotional journey that will leave you wanting to know what happens to them but also not wanting the story to end.

I loved this book. It made me cry twice. It made me stay up until 1 am on a weeknight when I had to be up at 6.30 am the next day because I had to know the end. And it made me wish I had not left it so long before I read it. I can’t give a book higher praise than that. Go and read it immediately. Then read The Turning Point, because it’s even better.

Having read Freya’s work from the very beginning, I can see how it has matured as the years have passed, much as she and I have done (we are a similar age) and I cannot wait to see what is coming next.

The Way Back Home is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Freya North gave up a PhD to write her first novel, Sally, in 1991. For four years she turned deaf ears to parents and friends who pleaded with her to ‘get a proper job’. She went on the dole and did a succession of freelance and temping jobs to support her writing days. In 1995, throwing caution to the wind, she sent three chapters and a page of completely fabricated reviews to Jonathan Lloyd, and met with success: five publishers entered a bidding war for her book.

In 1996 Sally was published to great acclaim and Freya was heralded as a fresh voice in fiction. Her following books have all been bestsellers. Her novel Pillow Talk won the 2008 Romantic Novel of the Year Award. Freya’s most recent novel, The Turning Point, was published in June 2015 (HarperCollins).

Freya was born in London but lives in rural Hertfordshire with her family and other animals where she writes from a stable in her back garden.

A passionate reader since childhood, she was originally inspired by Mary Wesley, Rose Tremain and Barbara Trapido to write fiction with strong female leads and original, sometimes eccentric characters. In 2012 she set up and now runs the Hertford Children’s Book Festival. She is also judge for the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England’s ‘Rural Living Awards’ and Ambassador for Beating Bowel Cancer.

Happy Birthday to Me!

FullSizeRender

 Well, this isn’t going very well so far, is it?!

By that I mean this blogging malarkey – which I just cannot seem to make time for or get into a rhythm with at all, but more on that later.

I bet some of you thought I meant that the goal I set for myself this year, which is the subject of this blog, wasn’t going well, didn’t you? The goal of not buying or borrowing any new books in 2017 and only reading from my TBR. Well no, that project is going surprisingly well, and no one is more amazed about that than I am, I can tell you. So far, so good. Despite many temptations, including a visit to The Book Loft in the German Village in Columbus, Ohio that has 32 ROOMS OF BOOKS*, I have stood firm, and have not bought, begged, borrowed or stolen any new books yet this year, and its now June! Big fist bumps to me, I don’t think anyone thought I would hold out this long, least of all me.

(*If anyone is ever in the vicinity of Columbus, Ohio, I highly recommend a visit to the charming German Village, which is a unique and beautiful neighbourhood and the fabulous The Book Loft, where any book lover could spend hours lost in a world of literature. And I mean literally lost, this place is a labyrinth. Walking out without a couple of new tomes was one of the hardest things I have ever done. My fellow traveller and blogger, Liz, is made of less stern stuff and succumbed to the lure of the amazing array on sale. What the hell, go to Ohio anyway, even if you don’t love books. It is a truly wonderful state with a raft of delights to tempt a person with any interests. Make sure you combine Columbus with a trip to the equally fascinating Cincinnati, and maybe pop over to Kentucky while you are down there. The American Midwest is a much over-looked travel destination that I would not hesitate to recommend, whilst wearing my travel agent hat. Contact me via my business page at Jaunt Travel if you would like to hear more.)


Luckily, in this barren new-book wilderness, a small oasis appeared last month in the shimmering form of my birthday. You may recall from my initial post setting out the rules for my challenge, my nearest and dearest were to be allowed to gift me one book each as a token of their love and affection on my birthday (If you missed my original post, Here it is). I may have added one or two (or 30) much desired titles to my Amazon wish list to encourage this largesse, and those that know me best were duly generous. So I now have 8 shiny new books to gladden my deprived heart and strengthen my resolve for the second half of the year. The titles I received are pictured above and I must express my sincere gratitude to the kindly souls who bestowed them upon me. I particularly want to thank my step-daughters, Twin 1 & Twin 2 and the Tumbling Tornado for abandoning their usual joint present approach and buying my one each to maximise my book haul. I know, as all my children are avid readers, they feel my pain and wanted to ease it as much as possible and I am very grateful.

So, the next major hurdle to get over is sacrificing my annual ‘beach read’ book-buying session and selecting my lounger literature from the pile I already have. And given how unusually well this resolution is going, I have decided to make a few mid-year ones, first and foremost to get to grips with this whole regular blogging thing. However, I move in to the rest of the year with newly strengthened resolve and a belief that I might actually do this impossible thing – go a whole year without buying any new books. And if I can do that, what other impossible thing might I achieve?