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Friday 20 January 2023

Latest Book Reviews


Dear friends. Welcome to another round-up of book reviews and the #WOYBS link-up with bloggers in the southern hemisphere. The star rating is:  5 stars = I loved it! 4 stars = very good;  3 stars - OK;  2 stars: don't go there. 


Devotion by Hannah Kent *****

This is Australian writer Hannah Kent's first novel since 2017 when she published the sublime Burial Rites, nominated for several prizes, followed by The Good People in the same year.

As with Burial Rites, this is a very original and daring novel based on history.

We follow two young women on the long and arduous voyage from Prussia to Australia in the 1830s. Their  austere religious community is emigrating to find freedom but conditions on board the ship are terrible and not everyone will make it.  

Hanne and Thea are close friends who secretly realise their relationship is more than friendship but they don't understand how or why. Both fall seriously ill. Finally the ship docks and the community moves into its new settlement near Adelaide. The bond between Hanne and Thea proves too strong for even nature to break.

Themes include witchcraft, religious persecution and the poor treatment of the indigenous population in Australia. 

This is an astonishing love story and beautifully written. 

Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent *****

Sally Diamond has lived a quiet, peaceful life in a remote house with her psychiatrist father. It all changes when he dies, and she lights a bonfire. Sally is thrust into public attention. Gradually her extraordinary background is revealed. Sally grows in confidence as she discovers her origins, but unwelcome attention from someone unknown on the other side of the world, and an obsessive neighbour threaten her security. 

Sally is a heroine to fall in love with, and this novel is a real tour de force.  Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK for the advance reader copy. This novel is published on 2 March. 

My Other Recent Reads

The Woman on the Bridge by Sheila O'Flanagan ****

It's been a while since I read a Sheila O'Flanagan, and this book shows she has moved away from the chick lit I remember her for. 

The setting is Dublin in the 1920s. Ireland is a country at war.  Winnie O'Leary, who works in a draper's shop, becomes unwittingly caught up in it when a stone is thrown through the shop window and she meets Joseph Burke.  

She and Joseph fall in love but their relationship is challenged when Winnie has to become more involved in the fighting than her family would like.

Based on the life of O'Flanagan's grandmother, I found this an eye opener of a book.  As a child in England we were taught nothing about Irish history and it was my husband's Irish mother who educated me about the atrocities of the English on their neighbours. It still shocks me to the core. O'Flanagan puts a human face on a desperate battle.

All The Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham ****

Isabelle Drake's infant son Mason disappeared from his bed a year ago.  Since then police have run out of leads and seemingly lost interest. Isabelle partners with a true crime podcaster to try to get to the bottom of what happened to her son. Lots of psychological suspense and twists, with all the loose ends neatly tied up at the end.   Published on 2 February. 

A Winter Grave by Peter May ****

The first book I've read by Peter May, who is the 12 million copy bestselling author of the Lewis trilogy. 

This latest novel is a chilling new mystery set in the not too distant future in the isolated Scottish Highlands. A young meteorologist checking a mountain top weather station in Kinlochleven discovers the body of a missing man entombed in ice. 

Cameron Brodie, a Glasgow detective, sets out on a hazardous journey to the isolated and ice-bound village. He has his own reasons for wanting to investigate a murder case so far from his beat.

The denouement is a thrilling "best example" in dramatic writing as Brodie tries to out power and outwit his assailant. 

The Things We Do To Our Friends by Heather Darwent ****

Clare arrives at Edinburgh University determined to reinvent herself and make friends.  She is surprised and delighted to be drawn into the world of charismatic Tabitha, who leads a glamorous, wealthy life in with interesting friends and holidays in France. I felt for Clare as she tries not to make any faux pas among people who move with the ease and lustre of the upper middle classes.

The reason for Tabitha's friendship becomes clear. She has identified Clare as someone who can help in her idea to wreak revenge on erring men. 

An enjoyable page turner with a feminist slant.

The Wilderness Retreat by Jennifer Moore ***

This is becoming a familiar scenario: strangers gather in a retreat in the middle of nowhere, and strange things happen. Bella has been given a surprise gift, a stay at a wilderness retreat in Sweden. She hopes it will take her mind off her only son's departure to University.  But a mystery note, and a figure from her past, start to cause unease and a sense that she's being targeted.

Intermittent Fasting Recipes for Beginners by Nicole Poirier ****

Intermittent Fasting (IF) is very popular, and Poirier gives some good, nutritious and easy-to-make recipes for all the different fasting intervals. 

It's all about getting maximum nutrition in the reduced amount of time you have. 

She looks at the most common IF protocols and there's a FAQ section. 

Recipe ingredients are given in both cups and metric, and could be used by anyone looking to improve their nutrition, not just those on IF regimes.

Recipes include Dark Chocolate Almond Power Balls; Bacon, Basil, and Tomato Quiche-Lettes; Red Lentil, Vegetable, and Coconut Soup; Baby Spinach, Blueberry, and Goat Cheese Salad with Crispy Tempeh. 

I hope you enjoyed this month's reviews. Come back on Wednesday for a fashion post and on next Friday for #WhatsBeenOnYourCalendar, including TV and podcast reviews.


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