RAE’S READING ROUND-UP FOR… May 2020

Hello reading friends!

And as promised, I plan to share a monthly reading round up that will include books enjoyed as Ebooks, paperbacks, hardbacks and audio.

This month was a little lighter on the reading front, as I’ve been spending time watching movies, playing board games and generally hanging out with family during lockdown. However, the novels I have read are all ones I’m thrilled to recommend.

Until next time… I hope you enjoy!

REDHEAD BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD by ANNE TYLER

For anyone struggling to read during the current pandemic crisis, I would recommend Anne Tyler’s Redhead By The Side Of The Road. It’s a short, engaging work with characters so real they feel like acquaintances. Micah Mortimer thrives on order and certainty, is borderline pernickety, and hapless with women – despite the unsought advice dispensed by his laidback sisters. When a teenager arrives on Micah’s doorstep, claiming to be his son, Micah’s life is at risk of being thrown into chaos. Tyler is the queen of creating characters with seemingly humdrum lives then shines a laser beam on them, making them shine. This is a gentle hug of a novella that pulls the reader briefly into Micah’s world, offering a snapshot, sharing the kind of warmth and wisdom needed during such uncertain times.

THE GIVER OF STARS by JOJO MOYES

One of the things I’m thankful for during lockdown is that I’ve read a stack of excellent novels and yet still Jojo Moyes, The Giver Of Stars stands out as a potential favourite book of the year. Not a surprise since her worldwide bestseller, Me Before You, remains firmly within my top five all-time favourite reads. However, The Giver of Stars is very different in that it’s historical fiction based loosely on fact, set in the rugged mountains of Eastern Kentucky. It follows Alice Van Cleve’s journey from her genteel life in England as she joins a group of female librarians, including her whip-smart friend Margery, who battle small town prejudice and the elements to deliver books on horseback. And what a courageous band they were! Their fortitude and the friendships forged – both apt during lockdown – are what will stay with me. I longed to join them riding their weekly routes and that’s saying something, as I’m nervous of horses! A solid five stars for the Giver of Stars.

THE DAY THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING by CATHERINE MILLER

I thoroughly enjoyed Catherine Miller’s first novels about octogenarian Olive Turner and her Gin Shack on The Beach, which were fun, uplifting reads, so I was delighted to discover Catherine’s latest novels are in my favourite genre, contemporary women’s emotional fiction… Following personal heartbreak, Tabitha sets out to build a new life for herself, which includes becoming a foster mum to teenage twins and a baby girl. The story is told as a dual timeline, flicking between the period that changed everything and the present day. I was particularly interested in reading about someone who is fostering as there are foster parents within my family and Catherine’s book shone a spotlight on just how tricky, but also rewarding, that experience can be. The Day That Changed Everything was peppered with wise little nuggets, many that felt very relevant for where we are today…Find hope. Search for it. And once you have it, never let go… I already have Catherine’s, 99 Days With You, on my to-be-read pile, which I hope to review soon. 

YEAR OF WONDERS by GERALDINE BROOKS

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks is a novel some will find comfort in during these strange times and others may choose to avoid. I fall into the first category and was delighted when it was selected as my book group read, as I gained so much from reading this amazing account. Set during the English plague of 1666, it is based on the true story of the Derbyshire village of Eyam, who, lead by their minister, chose to quarantine in a bid to stop the spread of the disease.
I longed to give Year of Wonders five stars, as the characterisation, descriptions of the village and village life are so beautifully rendered, but the last chapter of the novel was a tiny stretch too far for me. And so I would award Year of Wonders four and a half stars. Vividly imagined historical fiction based on fact.

BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN by DIANE CHAMBERLAIN

Technically I finished Big Lies In a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain at the end of April, but close friends know just how much I love her writing, so it’s a thrill to share that her latest novel has become my new favourite. A dual timeline set both in the present day and in North Carolina of the 1940s, when racial tensions remained high, it follows Morgan Christopher and Anna Dale, artists linked by an extraordinary mural. Unlike some dual timelines where one strand outshines the other, in Chamberlain’s expert hands they are equally weighted, both pointing towards a satisfying conclusion. My only disappointment was that Anna’s story felt so true that I was certain when I finished I would discover her character was based on a real artist! It’s a shiny five stars from me…

A Huge Welcome!

Hello! Thanks so much for popping by and helping me celebrate the launch of my blog. I’m excited to embark on this new adventure and plan on sharing loads of interesting reading and writing news, which I hope will be both entertaining and helpful.

Mid month, I’ll post about what is rocking my writing world … sharing courses I’ve discovered, favourite podcasts, author events on Facebook live, Twitter comps, my writing successes but also opening up about the frustrations of writing and living a creative life too.

As I’m passionate about supporting other authors, at the end of each month I’ll share a round up of my latest favourite reads, on Kindle, in paperback, in audio, all in bite-size reviews, easy to gulp down with your beverage of choice.

Currently reading…

But most of all I’d love to hear from you… What you love to read… Where you are in your writing journey… What inspires you creatively?  

As a little thank you for checking out my first post, I’ve shared one of my poems inspired by artist Frances Walker’s work entitled Raised Beach, Tiree. Check out her art work here. When considering the piece I realised that even though the raised beach wasn’t where I expected, it still offered shelter and was teaming with life… thoughts I hope offer comfort during these unsettling times.

Stay safe until next time …

BEACHED

Once washed by the ocean,

now stranded on land –

a rumble of boulders,

that chink underfoot.

Marram grass sprouts

where kelp once drifted–

a shelter for spiders

where fish used to sleep.

Pale sands are dotted

with gannets and trilling lapwings;

fat bumblebees rest

as an oystercatcher cries.

In the distance, the machair

where dragonflies quiver –

a meadow that saves stones

from waves lashing ashore.

Cool cups of sunshine

bathe the clatter of skimmers.

Though the sea has retreated

its sound still remains.

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