A whole year of ’em. So, one of my new year’s resolutions last year was to read 25 books, as I mentioned in my ‘resolution post’. I read 24 books and a fair few audio books and I am in the process of reading my 25th book, so let’s agree to call that a success. There are so so many books out there that I often don’t know where to start when looking for a new book (despite having an enormous ‘to read’ pile – fairly standard book worm problems), so I often tend to go on recommendation. My best friend is an avid read and works in a book shop, so she’s my go to book adviser; other times though I consult the blogs I like to read the most, as I figure if I like their taste in everything else then chances are that they have great book taste too. Plus, they will undoubtedly know about books that I didn’t even know existed. I’ve added a currently reading feature to my sidebar too, so you can see what I’m reading at the moment.
If you plan on reading this entire post then I advise you to go and make a cuppa and grab a few biscuits to keep you going, it is going to be a long one.
This is the book that introduced me to Trisha Ashley, now one of my favourite chick lit authors. I used to turn my nose up at chick lit but sometimes you just need a nice easy to read book that you can get lost in. I discovered this after my best friend gifted me the book collection she’d acquired whilst living in England, before she moved back to the country we both grew up together in. All the main characters in Trisha Ashley’s books have a passion for cooking and it means I can live out my dreams whilst reading them. In this book Holly Brown, a widow, has a job house sitting in a remote area. The single bachelor that owns the estate returns unexpectedly, the rest I’m sure you can figure out. That being said, what I like most about Trisha Ashley’s books is how diverse and well thought out the different people in the stories are. This book is my favourite of hers and I think they are some of the best characters that she has written. It isn’t all girl meets boy though, Holly puts up quite a fight. This coupled with the other great characters in the book make this a delicious festive read. Add it to your Christmas reading list for next year. Oh… you don’t have one?! Just me then!
Another Trisha Ashley book. This one set in the village of Sticklepond. This is the second book set in the village and if you like things chronological (the stories are almost wholly unrelated) then read Chocolate Wishes first (reviewed as an audiobook later). In this book, Tansy Poole inherits a shoe shop in Sticklepond and leaves her old life behind (or trys to). All is going well until a brooding actor moves in next door and turns a few things upside down. This book has another set of really great characters and a fair few twists and turns throughout. The main character/women in all of Trisha Ashley’s books have real sustenance to them and aren’t girly girls. They are hard working, go getters who love to cook, I guess that’s why I tend to get so totally absorbed by them. I just really enjoy there being a whole story at play with food and cooking lurking the background at all times.
This is an incredibly touching memoir of how actress Portia De Rossi lived with and then overcame an eating disorder, whilst battling with the realisation that she way gay. The book documents her struggles and stories about accepting herself and coming out to her family, friends and also the media. It is a heartbreaking insight into how an eating disorder dictates your life and self worth, and the lengths sufferers will go to conceal their disorder and also to maintain such a damaging lifestyle. Never choosing to become anorexic, it crept up on her in her desire to be the best at dieting, until she got to the point where she weighed 80 lbs and ate 300 calories a day. It is a haunting book and a brutally honest account of the life she has lead so far. There is a happy ending in the overcoming of her condition and of falling in love with her now wife, Ellen DeGeneres. Portia aimed to shed some light on what it is like to live with the illness of an eating disorder and to inspire those suffering or inform those who know people suffering. It was an extremely brave book to write and I have only admiration.
A book by one of the chick lit queens, this is a delicious story of how a high-powered city lawyer’s life unravels and she finds herself running away from it all into the countryside. Here she accidentally lands herself a job as a housekeeper, when she has absolutely no housekeeping skills whatsoever. The fun unfolds as she tries to keep this fact hidden from the locals with the help of some well meaning locals, including the handsome gardener Nathaniel. The hilarity ensues when she has to break into her old life to clear her name and there are tough decisions to be made on what the future holds for her. A nice story to get lost in.
This is a spin off story from the deliciously written gothic inspired novel ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’, which is also a TV drama series. The Crimson Petal and the White is the story of a well-read Victorian London prostitute named Sugar who spends her free hours writing stories of men meeting violent ends. Michael Faber’s writing is exquisite in the way that your senses are fully engaged, you can feel those cold damp bed sheets and that Victorian London dirt almost gets under your fingernails. The Apple follows Sugar’s escapades, beginning where The Crimson Petal and the White left off. Both are books you should definitely read, but they aren’t for the faint-hearted.
This is a memoir by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. I wrote a whole post on how much I love this book, so I won’t repeat myself. It is full of amazing recipes, I love the buckwheat pancakes and the dutch pancakes (there is much more than pancakes in here though!) and there are several recipes on this blog from this book. One of my favourite bloggers and writers!
This is Molly Wizenberg’s second memoir, about the restaurant she and her husband opened. It is a brutal and refreshing account of how difficult it can be to juggle a life and opening/running a new restaurant. Like her first book, each chapter has a recipe, and that recipe’s story. I love how central food is to Molly’s life and how stories can be told through meals. It is a concept I totally relate to.
This is a true story of a white man in the 1950s who through dye and UV treatments turned his skin temporarily black. He then spends time in the Deep South of America, experiencing life as a black man. It is a shocking, heart wrenching book. It appalls me that the treatment of this man happened within living memory of most of the planet and it was by no means rare. This book is now compulsory reading in many schools in America. Perhaps more shocking is the way he was treated by the white community upon his return, once he published his findings.
This is a fun short story written by one of my favourite children’s writers, Eoin Colfer (of the Artemis Fowl books, still some of my favourite stories). It was written to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.There are 10 others, written by different authors, released one per month over the 50th year. I can’t wait to read the one for my favourite doctor, 11. It is written by Neil Gaiman, how exciting! I can’t sum this book up better than amazon, so “London, 1900. The First Doctor is missing both his hand and his granddaughter, Susan. Faced with the search for Susan, a strange beam of soporific light, and a host of marauding Soul Pirates intent on harvesting human limbs, the Doctor is promised a dangerous journey into a land he may never forget…” The end has a lovely twist too.
I absolutely adored the TV series that were based on Jennifer Worth’s memoirs of life as a midwife in 1950s London. This is the first of 3 books on her life as a midwife but she has also written other books. It is an incredible insight with some amazing stories of the different patients she came across. So many colourful characters! Life was difficult in 1950s London and this is a great view point to see it from. I look forward to reading the rest of her books.
Discovering Deborah Rodriguez’s books was life changing. This book will always be one of my favourites and I completely love her other books too. They are featured next in this list. I wrote about this book in my post on Afghan Butter Cookies, so I won’t repeat myself here. I will say though that Deborah Rodriguez lived in Afghanistan for several years and set up a beauty school whilst she was there. Her book, The Kabul Beauty School is a true story but this one is a story she wrote influenced by her time there.
This is Deborah Rodriguez’s true story of setting up the first beauty school in Afghanistan, a country where women are typically uneducated. The work she did was incredible and the insight into such a complex country gave me a bug for reading books on the beautiful but war torn country. I would love to visit, once it is a safer place to be. I hope that one day it will regain its independence from such a brutal regime and fulfill the liberal potential it once showed.
This is Deborah Rodriguez’s latest memoir about life after Afghanistan, why she had to flee and how she started a new life in Mexico. Deborah is a truly inspiring woman and I can’t recommend her books enough. Discovering her as an author was one of my highlights of 2014.
“There are gods in Alabama. I know because I killed one” This is a thriller about a girl who goes to college, as far away from her family as possible, having made 3 promises to God; that she will stop fornicating with every boy she meets, never tell another lie and never, ever go back to her hometown of Possett, Alabama. In return she wants God to promise that the body will never be discovered. Things begin to unravel when an unexpected face from the past turns up at her door one day.
This was my wildcard of the year, I picked it up because I liked the title and the cover. It was completely unexpected but gripping.
This is a harrowing insight into life under the Taliban regime, in Afghanistan. It was one of several books about Afghanistan I bought. Siba Shakib, who was born in Iran, has spent 5 years visiting the north of Afghanistan and documenting what she sees. Nothing will prepare you for the impenetrable depths of misery in just one country. I’m amazed a country housing so much saddness and oppression doesn’t literally sink under the weight of it all. I’m aware that so many countries have similar horrors occuring but something about the way Deborah Rodriguez captures Kabul in her books had me hooked; having grown up in the Middle East might have something to do with it.
This book was the beginning of a festive book filled December. I’ll admit, it definitely was not what I was expecting, it was in fact far raunchier. Not 50 shades of Grey raunchy but far more so that I anticipated. The characters seem to get it out of their system a few chapters in though. What is left is a beautiful story of a complicated man hiding out in remote Scotland, when a jilted bride arrives at his doorstep, half frozen, on Christmas Eve. He can’t hide away from his life in America forever and she has a completely new life to begin….
This was another favourite chick lit author discovery of the year. I first talked about Rebecca Raisin in my post on Gingerbread but will talk a little more about the stories themselves here. If ever there was a series of books that I wanted to be my life (ok there are many but still) then these would be them; from the small town feel of Ashford, Connecticut to the loveable and inspiring Cee Cee and of course Lily herself, with her gorgeous Gingerbread Café. I want it all, including the book worm best friend Sarah (thankfully, I already have a bookworm best friend). Sarah has her own story told in A Bookshop on the Corner. In this first story of Lily’s, she has finally got the Gingerbread Café to a good place, considering its humble beginnings when an outsider, Damon, sets up shop across the road from her, with his own cafe and shop. Things get even worse when he is devastatingly good looking and from a moneyed family who practically built the town of Ashford, back in the day. Lily is devastated that all her hard work could be undone by some rich boy’s hobby and she goes over to give him a piece of her mind. It is, of course, set over the Christmas period, when everything always seems a little more magical.
This book, shockingly, is not set at Christmas at all, but at Easter, where chocolate reigns supreme. This is how life should always be, I feel, especially when the words ‘gingerbread chocolate’ are uttered. A sublime combination. In this book, the second in the triology, Lily is busily involved with the organisation of hosting a chocolate festival in the quiet town of Ashford, to try and put it on the map. Journalists appear, but that is a story for a whole different book (The Bookshop on the Corner). The chocolate festival goes spectacularly but not quite as well as Lily’s love life (with a few hiccups on the way).
The final of Lily’s stories, she is about to marry the man of her dreams; then she meets his mother. Mum’s the word in this book as Lily’s own mother returns to Ashford and despite meaning well, seems to cause chaos. This trilogy will have you never wanting to leave Ashford. That’s why it is great that there are several other books set there, based around the other characters in the story. Like Sarah, who owns the bookshop on the corner.
Sarah is one of Lily’s best friends and owns the bookshop on the corner, just across the road from The Gingerbread Café, in Ashford, Connecticut. Sarah lives her life through her books and has very high expectations of the book worthy man she wants to sweep her off of her feet. Although, she’s decided that he only exists in books. When a journalist asks to interview her about her town of Ashford and the upcoming chocolate festival, she sends him over to The Gingerbread Café. He didn’t come to Ashford for the chocolate festival though….
This is the first Sue Watson book I’ve read and I loved it! I love how quickly you can get through a story with a novella but sometimes it is nice to have something a bit longer to get your teeth into (especially when there is Christmas cake in the title). This was a lovely festive read about two very, very different sisters. Sam, who runs a bakery and Tamsin, who lives a life of wealth and hosting parties for so-called ‘friends’, who always try to out do each other. Christmas has always been Tamsin’s, she hosts the best Christmas party in town, without a doubt. The decorators are in, ready for this year’s all white theme when Tamsin’s life comes crashing down around her by a a knock at the door. Secrets are revealed and shared, much like the two sisters’ realisations about it each other. It is a touching story about two very different sisters, who come to ultimately share the same dream.
Alex runs away from her old life in Edinburgh, i.e. the love of her life who is engaged to marry another woman. She finds herself in an old cottage in Cornwall, with a scruffy looking dog. This tiny Cornish town has a close knit community of locals, who just won’t take no for an answer, once she proves herself as the harbour master. There goes her ‘quiet life’ plan. Not that she had a chance anyway, she might of run away from her life but it catches her up in ways she never expected.
Another delicious novella, this time written by Lucy Diamond. This is the second book about Christmas at the Beach Cafe, which I didn’t realise at the time but I don’t think I missed out on too much and very much look forward to catching up the first. These are both Christmas follow ups to The Beach Cafe itself. In this book, Evie is due to spend her second Christmas with her boyfriend Ed; except that this year Ed needs to be with his recently widowed mother and Evie’s sister Ruth is in the throws of divorce and coming to stay, along with her 3 kids. It is set to be a miserable time but Christmas has a habit of being magical, this one especially so.
I ended the year on a Trisha Ashley book, the same way I began the year and the best way possible. She really is a fantastic writer. This tale is set in the village of Middlemoss, where Lizzy lives with her teenage son and straying husband, in a cottage on her husband’s family’s estate. Lizzy makes her money by chronicling her self-sufficient life and the tales of the Christmas Pudding Circle, the village committee who makes sure the elderly are stocked with Christmas puddings and cakes over the festive period. Like all of Trisha Ashley’s main characters, Lizzy is always baking something. Lizzy’s life is one I spent the whole book wishing was mine.
That is the end of all the books that I actually read, but I also listened to some fantastic audio books whilst on my journeys to and from work, these were:
I’ve read this book multiple times but I wanted to include it in this list because it is the perfect pick-me-up book. This book is therapy, whether you need it or not. This is a true story about a woman who spent 12 months travelling to Italy, India and Indonesia, to overcome a divorce and find herself. Her honesty is brutal and refreshing as she explains how she overcame those demons depression and loneliness. Coupled with the amazing travel writing and different cultures, it is an inspiring read (usually inspiring me to pack my suitcase!)
We’re back in Sticklepond, or should I say, we have arrived in Sticklepond; this is the first Trisha Ashley book set in the village and chronologically comes before Chocolate Shoes and Wedding Blues. Chloe makes beautiful chocolates that contain an inspirational message. All was peaceful in idyllic Sticklepond until the new vicar/ex-rock star moves into town, who also happens to be Chloe’s first love.
This is the Jenny Colgan book with my favourite character/story line (but The Little Beach Street Bakery comes a VERY close second), Issy and her cupcake café (it is the life I not-so-secretly want). This is the first book about Issy, who was brought up by her baker grandfather and brief appearances from her eccentric mother. Issy is with a good for nothing guy, Graham, who she also works with. Things all go wrong, but her housemate and best friend Helena is there to help pick up the pieces with several bottles of wine. Issy turns to her life long hobby of baking, whilst searching for a job. After much indecision, the Cupcake Café is born, with a loan from complicated but kind banker, Austin. I really enjoyed the narrator of the audio book version, especially Helena’s voice, nothing like I’d imagined her to be but perfectly Helena.
The second installment of Issy’s Cupcake Café and a festive one at that. It isn’t all plain sailing though, just as everything is as she’d want in her life, Issy’s boyfriend is head hunted for a job in New York. Issy’s heart is firmly divided between the café she’s poured everything into that is finally taking off and her boyfriend Austin, when asked to choose, what will she decide? All of Jenny Colgan’s books (that I’ve read so far) contain recipes. The recipes in this one were so good that I had to go and buy a paper copy, just so I had them all.
Ah, I love this story. Perhaps more than The Cupcake Café, ok well maybe not, ok maybe. Oh I don’t know, they are both amazing but I think I possibly love the characters in this story more. Polly runs away from her old, toxic, life and finds herself in Cornwall, an island off of Cornwall to be precise. She moves into the old place she can afford, which is less than luxurious and finds herself inheriting a puffin, Neil. She meets the lovely fisherman (including their leader, Tarnie) who work from the island and the American bee keeper (Huckle) who sells honey. She also rediscovers her love of baking bread. This does result in her making enemies with the island baker (Mrs Manse), a formidable widow who does not like any change coming to her island. I cannot wait for the next installment, Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery.
Anna Trent has an accident at the chocolate factory that she works in, in England. Unable to go back to work whilst recovering in hospital, she bumps into her old French teacher, Claire. Claire persuades Anna to go to Paris and work in a renowned chocolatier’s. It is trial by fire as Anna discovers how real chocolate is made and soon discovers a whole untold story about Claire who she spent a summer in Paris as a teenager. In the book the stories go along side by side and come together in the end. You get to discover Paris with Anna, until her boss is rushed in to hospital and she is faced with getting to know his son… a whole lot better.
Vintage dealer Evie finds herself with the opportunity of a lifetime, going to Kettlesheer Castle, Scotland to help a family unlock some of the wealth locked up in antiques in the castle. A hit with the family, except it seems (at first) with the distant and serious heir, Robert. Evie’s sister will be at the Kettlesheer winter gala, as her boyfriend is best friends with gloomy Robert. Evie’s sister is dreading it and makes her excuses last minute, leaving Evie to step in her place (a dream she didn’t think possible, except the having to dance part). It is traditions galore in the most majestic of settings. I was so pleasantly surprised by this book and couldn’t wait to read more Hester Browne.
After reading (listening to) my first Hester Browne book, I instantly picked up my next. When Amy moved from her family home in the North of England to London to set up her business as a gardener, she moves in with Jo, a ‘posh’ party girl. Amy is fed up of meeting all of Jo’s posh male friends and is desperate to meet a genuine, normal man. Then she meets Leo, who appears normal but turns out to be more posh than she could ever imagine. It is time for Amy to reassess what she thought she wanted in life, as she gets wrapped up in a whirlwind, royal romance.
There aren’t words to express how important the next two books are. Elizabeth Wein has clearly extensively researched women’s involvement in the second world war. This book follows two women from very different backgrounds who become best friends, one a pilot and one a translator who gets drafted into special duties; who gets taken hostage by the Nazis. This book follows the two women’s stories, independently until the collide at the end. It is a harrowing and realistic insight (despite being a novel, it is grounded on many true experiences) into life in the war, from a rare (female) perspective. This book is mind blowing, that is until you read the next one, Rose Under Fire. Highly recommended as an audio book, due to all the different characters’ accents. I haven’t got the words to express how brilliant this book is, I urge you to read the Amazon reviews, before hopefully reading it yourself.
This book changed my life. Code Name Verity was harrowing, this book completely redefines the word. Maddie, the pilot from Code Name Verity, meets Rose Justice, an American pilot who later finds herself in Ravensbrück, the women’s only concentration camp in Nazi Germany. The unthinkable medical experiments, the desperation, the hopelessness, the horror and the sheer will to survive are exqusitiely demonstrated in this book as we follow Rose and her ‘rabbit’ friend (the rabbits was the name given to the women who were experimented on by the Nazi doctors), along with other women she comes to know and love, on their journey through Ravensbrück, and for some of them, life afterwards. Life afterwards includes the Hamburg Ravensbrück trials that followed the highly public Nuremburg trials. We also meet a Nazi doctor who has herself been imprisoned in the camp, adding shades of grey to the black and white nature of good and evil. I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do in her position. The characters in both these books are unforgettable and they will haunt you. These stories are important and they need to be told. Both these books are young adult books but not once during reading them did I feel like they were written for children or had details left out because of this.
Two sister’s inherit their grandmother’s Brighton ice cream shop, much to half of the family’s disapproval. One sister has to come back from traveling in Thailand and living in a beach side hut with her gorgeous boyfriend. The other, more sensible, sister decides she’s going to give it everything she has to keep her grandmother’s legacy alive. She has the crazy idea of taking a gourmet ice cream making course in Italy and her life really does begin to change. A delicious tale of sisterhood, stepping outside your comfort zone and opening your eyes to what is right in front of you.
Amelia is a teacher in London, living with her husband, Jack. Life gets turned upside down and she takes the opportunity to move out of London and into the Kent country side, where she is far more likely to be roasting chestnuts on an open fire. They move to a cottage that needs renovating but it takes so much more than she ever imagined; including unraveling the story of the cottage’s previous owner. At times, Amelia is left wondering if her dream really is her dream anymore and if her marriage with Jack will make it.
That’s the low down on all the books I read/listened to in 2014. I am hoping to do more regularly posts on books throughout 2015. I’d love to hear what books you enjoyed the most in 2014! I am always looking for suggestions.