Book Review – An Utterly Impartial History of Britain by John O’Farrell

ImpartialBLURB: Many of us were put off history by the dry and dreary way it was taught at school. Back then ‘The Origins of the Industrial Revolution’ somehow seemed less compelling than the chance to test the bold claim on Timothy Johnson’s ‘Shatterproof’ ruler.But here at last is a chance to have a good laugh and learn all that stuff you feel you really ought to know by now…

In this ‘Horrible History for Grown Ups’ you can read how Anglo-Saxon liberals struggled to be positive about immigration; ‘Look I think we have to try and respect the religious customs of our new Viking friends – oi, he’s nicked my bloody ox!’ Discover how England’s peculiar class system was established by some snobby French nobles whose posh descendants still have wine cellars and second homes in the Dordogne today. And explore the complex socio-economic reasons why Britain’s kings were the first in Europe to be brought to heel; (because the Stuarts were such a useless bunch of untalented, incompetent, arrogant, upper-class thickoes that Parliament didn’t have much choice.)

A book about then that is also incisive and illuminating about now, ‘2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge’, is an hilarious, informative and cantankerous journey through Britain’ fascinating and bizarre history. As entertaining as a witch burning, and a lot more laughs.

MY THOUGHTS: I found this title by randomly selecting the podcast We Are History, a relatively new addition to my listening agenda, by Angela Barnes and this author. It’s funny and informative, and available on a number of platforms (I use Podcast Addict on my android phone).

I listened to this title during my week’s commute to & from work on Audible, but again, the book is available from many different sources. This version is unfortunately abridged, but I didn’t notice that until I read someone else’s review after finishing (whoops!). That said, I enjoyed learning more about things I’d skimmed over in the past and also his irreverent but truthful view of some of the most obvious cock-ups in British history. An easy listen that might send you off onto another learning tangent or satisfy your need for one-off entertainment. Four stars.

Book Review – The Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs

oystervilleBLURB: At the break of dawn, Caroline Shelby rolls into Oysterville, Washington, a tiny hamlet at the edge of the raging Pacific.

She’s come home.

Home to a place she thought she’d left forever, home of her heart and memories, but not her future. Ten years ago, Caroline launched a career in the glamorous fashion world of Manhattan. But her success in New York imploded on a wave of scandal and tragedy, forcing her to flee to the only safe place she knows.

And in the backseat of Caroline’s car are two children who were orphaned in a single chilling moment—five-year-old Addie and six-year-old Flick. She’s now their legal guardian—a role she’s not sure she’s ready for.

But the Oysterville she left behind has changed. Her siblings have their own complicated lives and her aging parents are hoping to pass on their thriving seafood restaurant to the next generation. And there’s Will Jensen, a decorated Navy SEAL who’s also returned home after being wounded overseas. Will and Caroline were forever friends as children, with the promise of something more . . . until he fell in love with Sierra, Caroline’s best friend and the most beautiful girl in town. With her modeling jobs drying up, Sierra, too, is on the cusp of reinventing herself.

Caroline returns to her favorite place: the sewing shop owned by Mrs. Lindy Bloom, the woman who inspired her and taught her to sew. There she discovers that even in an idyllic beach town, there are women living with the deepest of secrets. Thus begins the Oysterville Sewing Circle—where women can join forces to support each other through the troubles they keep hidden.

Yet just as Caroline regains her creativity and fighting spirit, and the children begin to heal from their loss, an unexpected challenge tests her courage and her heart. This time, though, Caroline is not going to run away. She’s going to stand and fight for everything—and everyone—she loves.

 

MY THOUGHTS: I really, really loved this title. Obvs I only picked it up because of the needle & thread on the cover, but it completely engrossed me. The characters are very well drawn, right down to the supporting actors (for want of a better term) and the situations very real. As I read, one of the scenarios was coming to the court conclusions in real life – how much more relevant can it be?

The sad truth is that the #metoo movement has a lot of unsung members. This title is a homage to those women, children and men who haven’t used their voice yet. It’s also about looking around you and seeing how much you have, not how much you want. That’s a reminder I need!

Bookbub (the service I use to find free & discounted titles in my preferred genres) has some interesting questions should you chose to use this title for a book club, or even as a self-started review HERE

Book Review – Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

BLURB: The London season is in full fling at the end of the 1920s, but the Honorable Phryne Fisher—she of the gray-green eyes and diamant garters—is tiring of polite conversations with retired colonels and dances with weak-chinned men. When the opportunity presents itself, Phryne decides it might be amusing to try her hand at becoming a lady detective in Australia. Immediately upon settling into Melbourne’s Hotel Windsor, Phryne finds herself embroiled in mystery. From poisoned wives and cocaine smuggling, to police corruption and rampant communism—not to mention erotic encounters with the beautiful Russian dancer, Sasha de Lisse—Cocaine Blues charts a crescendo of steamy intrigue, culminating in the Turkish baths of Little Lonsdale Street.

MY THOUGHTS: I actually didn’t read this one. Unlike my normal “new to me” author process, I listened on Audible & thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve been watching the Australian adaptation on TV as I stitch, and that is very, very close to the author’s original. I am impressed!

If you like the cozy or gentle mystery or crime read, or you’re in to early Australian history, give this a try.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41022009-cocaine-blues

Book Review – Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

For 2020, part of my “reset” is to read a decent (i.e. interesting, thought provoking) book a week. Any links will be non-affiliate, as always, and any thoughts are my own. If you’ve got a recommend, send it my way!

crawdads.jpgBLURB: For years, rumours of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

MY THOUGHTS: This is one that got a lot of hype when it first released, and was on several influencer’s book lists, including Reese Whitherspoon and my fav, Ali Edwards. I should have read it then, but last year I was going for escapism and easy reads. There are some unrealistic aspects to this tale but it is beautifully written and the characters are well thought out and come alive on the page. I was gripped during the middle portion and blown away at the end – it wasn’t what I expected. 5 stars.

If you are thinking about picking this one up, Amazon have an extract on their US page HERE:

Book Review – A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

madness.jpgBLURB: On the rugged West Coast of New Zealand, Golden Cove is more than just a town where people live. The adults are more than neighbors; the children, more than schoolmates.

That is until one fateful summer—and several vanished bodies—shatters the trust holding Golden Cove together. All that’s left are whispers behind closed doors, broken friendships, and a silent agreement not to look back. But they can’t run from the past forever.

Eight years later, a beautiful young woman disappears without a trace, and the residents of Golden Cove wonder if their home shelters something far more dangerous than an unforgiving landscape.

It’s not long before the dark past collides with the haunting present and deadly secrets come to light.

MY THOUGHTS: Nalini has been a must-buy for me for a while now, with the exception of her Archangel series. When she revealed that she was moving into a suspense genre, I was pumped to read it and pre-ordered as soon as it was available (note Nalini, I STILL hate a Tuesday release. Especially when I couldn’t take the day off. Please talk to your publishers about that one!).

Initially my thoughts were that the overall format was like a Nora Roberts suspense (thinking of 2016’s The Obsession) but there are solid reasons for picking this one up over a recent Nora. It’s well-crafted and the characters are more than one dimensional right from the start. I loved the pacing and flow, and at no point did I think this was either rushing me or wasting my time.

There’s several possibilities as to whom the killer is, and each one is very plausible. There’s other spooky stuff going on in the background – alcohol, abuse, lying – all the things you find in any community. I’ve read one review which was indignant that Singh didn’t re-phrase this book in “woke” terminology and had everyone learn from their mistakes – oh whatever. We all know someone who relies upon other’s view of themselves as gospel. We all know someone who has p*ssed their life away for whatever reason and is angry about it, but doesn’t change. We all know someone who relies on an artificial product (alcohol, drugs, shopping, gossip) to bleed away any pain they might have. We all know someone who focuses on a trait & choses partners based on that, be it physical or emotional. And that makes the characters real, IMO.

This gets a solid 4.5 stars from me & I’ll be buying copies for Christmas presents. Can’t get much better than that!

AUTHOR SITE: https://nalinisingh.blogspot.com/

Back Roads to Belonging

Recently I’ve been reading an ARC of Kristen Strong’s latest, which released yesterday. It’s a worthy follow on from Girl Meets Change & I love it. Parts are like I’m actually sitting down with a girlfriend, it feels that personal.

Anyways, I encourage you to pick it up and review. There are always parts of our life where we feel like an outsider & this is about how that’s kind of normal. We aren’t all the same square peg.

There’s a lovely article on Ann Voskamp’s site today. Again, I encourage you to take a read.

When You Don’t Belong – and why that’s Okay

WIP Wednesday #251 & bonus book mini-review

Morning everyone! This time last week I was absorbing the fantastic Becoming by Michelle Obama (audible version, which has the bonus of being in her voice and so with her intonations and emphasis). It was great, for work and playtime and transit time. The only obvious problem is of course the book hangover that results from a great read. Regardless of your colour, creed, race, status or whatever – this one will have some lesson to take onboard, even if it’s just that what’s on someone’s surface isn’t necessarily true. Look to their actions, and be empathetic. Remember that person next to you in the supermarket queue also has problems and prejudices, and work to minimise yours in such a way that others are enabled. Or at least, not inconvenienced or damaged.

Right. Onto the lighter stuff. Last week was the first relating to The Order of the Phoenix. I worked on the actual challenge points:

  1. Boring neighbour – 300 on something that can get boring – I used Mermaid of Atlantis’ borders and you’d think that would be straight forward. EHHHH no. Not when you look at the chart and count the BS line as where a ten block finishes…and it actually doesn’t! I had to frog 70-odd silk stitches (carefully!) and their corresponding BS line as I was two rows out. I’ve now started on the filigree corner for an Extra Credit task.
  2. Unapproved Magic – 300 on a project that’s been suspended for 5 months or your oldest WIP – Teresa Wentzler’s Tapestry Cat certainly qualified, as I started this in Christmas 2006! I worked in the Greek key sections on that top right corner and got in 600 back stitches. Boring but necessary.
  3. Dementor Attack – 300 on a project that has no faces –a new start, the Mill Hill Princess Carriage. As per, I’m making one for me and one for Ms Lou. I managed to get in all the stitching to be at the beading point – 758 stitches at work/training/travel.

This week’s challenge is around the address of 12 Grimmauld Place, the Black house that lies semi-hidden in London & is the home of the Order of the Phoenix. The options were either 500 stitches on WIPs 1 & 2, or 1000 on WIP 12. I’ve gone for the first option so there will be another session on Fairy Idyll and Tapestry Cat, as I just couldn’t face Guardian. I may or may not get this out – we’re leaving on a combo work/play trip tomorrow and neither of these WIPs is something I can take with me, FI being on the floor stand and TC being a complicated blend of multiple threads (plus white evenweave, eep!). At least there are large blocks of colour on the Mirabilia.

Bonus shot is of a mural we found in Point Chevalier, another suburb of Auckland. Not sure who the men are, perhaps the composers? But I liked it anyway.

20190707_171923.jpg

Have a good week!

WIP Wednesday #244

20190513_134524Morning! Our week has been pretty good – MIL is back home (on oxygen permanently) but is more able to participate in family life, is great with her friends and we had a lovely Mother’s Day dinner (I cooked, but I left the cleaning J). Ms Louise chose flowers for both of us & did a lovely, slightly unconventional, job of it.

20190510_081046Mase had Book Week and on Friday, dressed as Calvin and Tiggr “dressed” as Hobbes. Yep, we’re all about the classics in our house! On the redeeming front, Zac is chosing to read & study To Kill a Mockingbird.

On stitching, I finished the second part of the biscornu but haven’t FFO’d it (insert chicken noises here). I did start another Mirabilia – Mermaid of Atlantis – and am planning to use this for most of the #magicalstitches extra credit challenges for the Goblet of Fire May/June months. I started with #2, as the shell chandelier/light was approved as something that might be at a fancy ball AND it was the middle of the top; now I’m working on task #1 (500 on something that could be found in the lake) with the fish, and I’m about 70 stitches off completing that challenge (I need to take an update photo), and combined with task #10 (200 stitches on a piece that has something that lays eggs) I’m working on the border, on the theory that fish lay eggs. That’s not quite at the half-way mark. Like a lot of people, I’m very motivated at the start of a piece!

This week’s challenge is WIP list based again – and as I have less than 20 WIPS, I’m allocated to option 2, 350 stitches each on WIP #1 & #7. Seven is actually the biscornu, so I have approval to jump the line to #8, which just so happens to be Raven Queen. Progress shots next week!

10 Things to Tell You Podcast Edition – On Reading

screenshot_20180911-214351_instagramLast year in September I took part in Laura Tremaine’s Instagram challenge about 10 Things to Tell You. She’s now expanded this to a podcast (iTunes or if you’re on an android phone, I recommend the Podcast Addict app) and each week, there will be a mini challenge. This week it’s about reading, and we all know how addicted I am to books! I have my childhood favs on the shelf still and made an effort to encourage all of my children to read, & three of the four do chose to read for leisure. Mase even reads himself to sleep like I do!

WHEN DO YOU READ? All. The. Time. I don’t really stop.

HOW DO YOU READ? I read printed, electronically and thru Audible. I consider most written word to be worth having, whether it’s me reading or someone else reading it to me.

WHAT DO YOU READ? Almost anything. I don’t like horror, or sci-fi, but I will devour high fantasy (think Tolken, Eddings, McCaffrey) and love novels that have historical facts woven in (Edward Rutherford, Rosalind Laker, etc). There are some authors I will pick up, almost without prejudice to the genre that they are writing in, and if there’s a bit of humour it is even better (Nora Roberts, Rosalind James, Suzanne Enoch & the late great Georgette Heyer are examples here). I am also quite the aficionado of Sandra Boynton, Linley Dodd & Margaret Mahy.

I’d love to see your answers! Please link to your posts in my comments field x

what the?

in a break from the twitter mess of what is the NZ political scene at the mo, I bring you something else that’s weird and impractical and frankly, dumb.

debby-hudson-1056837-unsplash1Who thought that displaying books without their spine was actually pretty or functional? Hmm?

*disclaimer – I stole this photo from another blogger. Their actual post made a lot of sense. Mine? Not so much.