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What I’ve Been Reading – Spring 2014

May 2, 2014

I haven’t written about books for ages on here, I have however been reading loads recently as well as listening to lots of books on Audible. I thought I’d do one big round-up of everything I’ve read recently rather than try to review them all.

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro:

I read this one a few weeks ago and got through it really quickly. It’s set in the 1950s. The main character Grace is bored and unhappy in her marriage. She is called unexpectedly to Paris where she has been left some money by a complete stranger. Rather than just accept the money she feels the need to discover more about the mysterious benefactor. Her search leads her on a journey through Paris to a shut up Perfume shop.

Alongside Grace’s story we learn about the life of Eva starting in 1920s New York.

This was a brilliant read and I couldn’t put it down. It is at time really sad, but also a really enjoyable book. Eva’s story is particularly interesting. It’s not a very light read but it’s so well written that I would definitely recommend it.

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan:

I am a huge Jenny Colgan fan and always look forward to her new books coming out. They seem to get better every time. This lovely offering is my favourite to date.

When Polly breaks up with her boyfriend and is left bankrupt after the failure of his business, she has to start again. The only home she can afford to live in is on a little island, only accessible to the mainland during low tide. She must adjust to her new life and the locals. She also has a huge love of baking and this brings her friends and enemies and ultimately a job she loves.

The book is an absolute treat and my favourite Colgan novel yet. I laughed and cried and developed a love of puffins and if you like girlie books then this is an absolute must read.

The Vintage Girl by Hester Browne: 

I was drawn to the title of this after spotting it in Tesco. It’s actually quite an odd choice of title and cover as the book isn’t specifically about vintage fashion, but it turned out to be the perfect read for me.

The book is about Evie who works in a London antique shop and can’t help buying every interesting item she sees, much to her bosses annoyance. She has a home full of little treasures and things she picked up because she likes to imagine the story behind them. She is sent to a castle in Scotland to value the antiques that are hiding away throughout the house. While searching the attics and and back rooms she discovers the story behind the house and it’s contents as well as befriending the owners. There’s also a charming little love interest or two thrown in for good measure.

I loved this book as it’s totally my sort of thing, I love old houses and antiques and the book was really well written with a great mix of humour romance and a little bit of mystery. If you fancy a well written dose of chick-lit then this is a great book to try.

The Debutante by Kathleen Tessaro:

I read this one right after I finished The Vintage Girl and was struck by the similarities, this book again is about the sale of goods from an old stately home. Kate the main character, has left her past in New York behind to work for her aunt. She is sent to a country house along with potential love interest Jack to sort through the contents. While there she discovers a shoebox containing letters between two wealthy sisters who were debutantes in the 1920s.

The book tells Kate’s story with the story of the Blythe sisters told through their letters alongside. The story really is a fascinating one and is concluded brilliantly.

I really enjoyed this book too, the characters were fascinating and the story had a great pace. I was really happy with the way the book ended and the unexpected twist and turns throughout.

Longbourn by Jo Baker:

I am a massive Pride and Prejudice fan, so much so that I listen to the audio book every night to get me off to sleep. So I’m always really apprehensive to read any sequels or adaptations of the story, (Death Comes to Pemberley I’m talking to you).

Longbourn is basically Pride and Prejudice told through the lives of the servants. This was clearly a well thought out, well researched book. It really made me think differently about Jane Austen’s characters and the Regency period itself which I have read so much about. And for that reason I loved the book, and felt that I learned a lot from it. However there were points where I didn’t enjoy the story line and felt the pace slowed down a little too much in the last third of the book.

One thing I really liked, was the different perspective on the characters of Mr and Mrs Bennet, and for me this was reason enough to read the book.

I’d recommend this if you’re an Austen fan or interested in that historical period as it was really interesting seeing it all from another angle.

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym: 

I love Barbara Pym’s books, which were mostly written in the 1950s. They manage to tell the most interesting stories about the simplest things. They also don’t follow the formula of most books. There isn’t always a big romance or intrigue or even a happy ending. They more take a snapshot of a period of time of quite ordinary characters and tell their story. The genius is in the simplicity as her books are perfectly written and really engaging.

Excellent Women was her second book, first published in 1952. The books main character is Mildred a single women in her 30s who lives in a bedsit within a shared house. Her days are taken up by her part-time job and organising church jumble sales. Her life becomes slightly more interesting when some new neighbours arrive in her building.

I can’t really say much more about the plot without telling the whole story. But I really loved this book. Her books are either your thing or they’re not, but personally I love the subtle story telling and the very british dry humour and wit.

Amelia Grey’s Fireside Dream by Abby Clements:

A book about a home renovation is always going to appeal to me, and this lovely bit of chick-lit had me sold from the description on the back. I’ve also read and enjoyed Abby Clement’s other two novels.

Amelia works as a teacher in a failing inner London high school, she loves her job despite the constant challenges it throws her way. She also has a lifelong dream to move to the country.

She and her husband sell their flat in Hackney and buy a cottage in a little village in Kent which needs more than a little work on it. The book charmingly covers the passing of time, through the renovation of each room and the changes in Amelia’s life as she settles into her new life in the country. There are issues with locals, family secrets and strains in her marriage as well as a rather dashing gardener.

I really enjoyed this sweet easy read all the way through. However I felt the ending was far too rushed and all the ends were tied far too quickly. It would have been perfect with a couple of extra chapters. Rushed endings are my literary pet hate.

A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym:

I started this over a year ago and recently resumed reading it and I’m glad I did. This is another really witty Pym novel from the 1950s.

The character writing in this book is absolutely fantastic, Wilmet the heroin is such an interesting character and I couldn’t work out if I liked her or not, but in a very good way. She finds herself bored in her marriage and loves to pry into the lives of others.

The book tells the story of the people living within her London parish along with all their quirks and foibles. This is my favourite of all the Pym novels I’ve read as the characters are all absolutely fantastically written.

I hope you have found something you might like to read here and enjoy my recommendations. I now have nothing at all to read myself to suggestions would be most welcome!

Buy these books on Amazon (I get a few pence if you do which helps keep me in candles and fake flowers)

  • Reply
    shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
    May 4, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Oh a few there I’d like to read!

  • Reply
    May 3, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Dorothy Whipple in Persephone (she has a tart view of humanity, like Barbara Pym), ‘I Capture the Castle’ Dodie Smith (who wrote 101 Dalmations for children), ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ Stella Gibbons (for something nasty in the woodshed – very funny!), E F Benson’s Mapp and Lucia stories … just for starters! As a bookseller with an interest in vintage we have a whole early twentieth century section in the shop.

    • Reply
      May 3, 2015 at 11:55 am

      I love Cold Comfort Farm and I Capture the castle are two favourites of mine. Great suggestions, I think my reading list just got longer!

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