Life and Thyme!

Books 2014-2017

For fun I have started to keep a list of all the books I finish reading. And from 2016 a brief description of each book.

In 2016 I challenged myself to read through the alphabet starting with an author whose name began with a, then b, then c and so on. All books came via the library. I completed this in January 2017. Books are marked with a *

So onto my next challenge. This from my 17 for 2017 set of goals for my year. This time to read 15 books from ones I already have at home with a view of passing them onto to someone else afterwards.  I am numbering them as I go.



Ann Cleeves- Hidden Depths- another Vera detective story, as good as ever.

Ann Cleeves- High Island Blues- good old fashioned detective story with an American location and British characters. Jolly good read

William Horwood- The Willows at Winter- the further adventures of Ratty,Mole, Otter, Badger and Toad, created in The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham. A lovely book for the Christmas/New Year break.

2 Jane Gardam- Bilgewater. Bilgewater, or Bills daughter or Marigold Green is a troubled teenager, growing up with her single parent Dad in a boy’s school where he teaches, with doubts about her appearance. It’s supposed to be a comedy I think, but the self doubts are a bit too close to home for humour. Never the less an enjoyable read from my heap. (This book will be returned to the friend who lent it to me in Summer 2016.)

3 Jane Gardam- Faith Fox. Holly Fox dies in childbirth. No-one able to cope with baby Faith. Weird characters, including priest living on a farm in an old priory running a commune. Shades of Cold Comfort Farm.

8 Mohsin Hamid- The Reluctant Fundamentalist- The American dream turns sour for a Pakistani graduate after 9/11. An interesting and thought provoking book.

Sue Monk Kidd- The invention of wings- truly magnificent book, based on the real life story of two American women pioneers of abolition and female equality. Just loved it. The best so far this year.

5 Tony Parsons- The Family Way- relationships of all kinds and hues, all heterosexual though as the theme of the book is children. A re-read it transpired for me, but I originally read it in 2005 and had forgotten all of it. But an enjoyable book.

4 James Runcie- The Discovery of Chocolate- protagonist drinks elixir of life and is present at all things chocolate.

9 Julia Stoneham- The Girl at the Farmhouse Gate- tale about land army girls

1 Joanne Trollope ( writing as Caroline Harvey) Parson Harding’s Daughter. A historical novel set in Dorset and India. Typical oft his historic genre and well written. Impoverished clergyman’s daughter marries  a rake in India, before finding true and honourable love. Enjoyable .( Second hand book from somewhere. In a bag for a chairty shop.)

Joanne Trollope- Balancing Act- work, life, family relationships, time. A good read

Anne Tyler- Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant- similiar to her other novels. American family story of an imperfect family from the 1900s to now! A good read.

*Vita Sackville-West. All Passion Spent- An 88 year old lady looks back on her life ,widow of a former Viceroy to India and a prime minister, she finally chooses what she wants to do. This is such an affectionate portrait of an old lady I can’t help wondering if she was based on a real person. A lovely gentle read.

10 Nathaniel West- the Day of the Locust- 1930’s Hollywood!

* Samantha Young-Echoes of Scotland Street- Tosh

* Carlos Ruiz Zafon- Marina- A macabre gothic tale set in Barcelona with a nod to Mary Shelley. Bit gruesome for me.

Non Fiction

6 Bill Bryson- Notes from a Small Island- wry  observations of us Brits. As funny as ever.

7 Bill Bryson- The road to Little Dribbling- Mr B takes a road trip on the Bryson Line from Bognor to Cape Wrath, reflections on the changes to the UK in the last 20 years, very funny in places. He still loves us!

J Smith- The History of Lady Lumley’s School and Foundation-part of my family history research

John Steinbeck- Working Days- the journal he kept whilst writing The Grapes of Wrath. I really enjoyed this, but I think you need to be a John Steinbeck nerd!

11 Derek Tangye- A Drake at the Door- 1950’s life on a Daffodil farm in Cornwall- couple leading the good life.

Total for 2017



In January I set my 16 for 2016 goals, one of which is to read 5 works of non-fiction.

In July I started my read through the alphabet challenge. I started at A and have to choose a book in order of the author’s surname initial to help me find new authors and some forgotten favourites. I have starred these book


*Cathy Ace- The case of the Dotty Dowager. Miss Marple meets the Number one Ladies Detective Agency. Nearly. A rather ridiculous story line. I wouldn’t bother if I were you! But I did read to the end.

*John Boyne- The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas. Set in Berlin and Poland in the 1940s. A moving tale, only to be read when one is in a good place. Highly recommended. Made into a film with the same name.

Charlotte Bronte- Jane Eyre. About my fifth re read of this book. On my Kindle this time, over various trips from home. Still enjoy it every time. A real classic.

Ann Cleeves- The Moth Catcher. A favourite author. This is one of the Vera Stanhope detective stories and it was every bit as enjoyable as I hoped, and better than the TV adaptation which I had seen already.

*Harlan Coben- Missing You.A new author for me. Gripping American cop thriller. Will be reading more from him.

*Vanessa Diffenbaugh- We never asked for Wings- Set in California, themes are parenthood, love, illegal imigration and education. ” sometimes we make the biggest mistakes when we are prepared to jeopardize everything we those we love”. Quite a good read but seemed a bit rushed at the end.

*David Ebershoff- The Danish Girl. I’ve not seen the film so was really looking forward to reading the book. Really enjoyable, beautiful love story and most thought-provoking as well as informative of a very sensitive subject. Highly recommend this one.

*Margaret Forster- The  Unknown Bridesmaid- A successful child psychologist comes to terms with her own troubled past. An entertaining and thought provoking read from the author of Georgy Girl.

* Caroline Graham- The Envy of the Stranger- from the author of the Inspector barnaby/ Midsummer Murder mysteries comes this one of story, of stalking and terror. Reminiscent of Ruth Rendall. An ok read.

John Grisham- Gray Mountain. I am a huge fan of this author but this book left me feeling most disappointed. It began with a wonderful scenario of lawyer versus big coal mining business. Then just over half way through the book a key character is killed. The promising court battle faded into nothing. Most unsatisfactory.

Joanne Harris- A Cat, a Hat and a Piece of String-series of short stories concerning the mysterious, the strange , the supernatural and a bit of pathos. All entertaining tales, my favourites were Dryad- a woman’s unusual relationship with a tree and Dee Eye Why- a man’s obsession with DIY and a house.

*Joanne Harris- Coastliners. An island off the coast of Brittany (France) struggles to survive economically. Bit of mystery and romance thrown in the mix. Bit too much about baots for my liking. Not one of my favourites by this author.

Robert Harris- Dictator.This is the forth book written by Robert Harris about the Roman Empire. My favourite remains Pompeii,telling the story of the Volcanic eruption which destroyed the city. Dictator is the third in a trilogy featuring Cicero, a philosopher, lawyer and orator , and is my favourite in this series. It covers the background to the demise of the Roman republic, the rise and murder of Julius Caesar and the death of Cicero. I studied the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar and I so wish this book had been available to me then. A good read if you enjoy good quality historical novels.

Veronica Henry- The Beach Hut Next Door-Lovely frothy summer read, perfect for the hols. Reminded me a little of Maeve Binchy

Susan Hill-The Betrayal of Trust. This is the first book featuring the detective Simon Serrailler that I have read. Initially I found it hard to get my mind around all the characters in the story. There was a cold case to unravel, which provided the vehicle to explore the issue of long term and terminal illness, death and euthanasia. Towards the end the various strands and characters came together in a most satisfactory way. A good read.

Susan Hill-Black Sheep-A poignant short novel, beautifully written, recommended.

*Kazuo Ishiguro- The Buried Giant. I loved the Remains of the Day by this author so was very excited to read this book. However it is a fantasy novel, a genre I don’t like much, with a dragon, ogres and pixies to say nothing of a Knight, a warrior and an orphan boy. Essentially this is a novel of love, betrayal, forgetfulness and forgiveness. The writing is so good that I was drawn into the story and read to the end. All I can say is Not my Cup of Tea.

* Belinda Jones- Winter Wonderland- Romantic tale. Quebec, Canada, is the best character.

*Sue Monk Kidd- The Secret Life of Bees. I have seen the film twice and I loved the book. The best one book this year.  Not going to say another thing. Please just read this one.

*Marina Lewycka- Life after a commune , what happened to the adults and grown up children. Funny in parts. A good read.

Kate Mosse- The Mistletoe Bride and other haunting tales. Best ghost stories I have read in a long time. For the main part set in the South if France or Oxfordshire.I highly recommend this book , especially if you wait till Halloween!

*Kate Mosse- The Taxidermist’s Daughter– a bit gruesome, decribed in the blurb as a superb atmospheric thriller with gothic overtones. A good book but not for the faint hearted.

* Stuart Nadler- The Book of Life- a wonderful collection of short stories concerning ordinay people coping with life events – marriage, death, empty nest syndrome, etc. I really enjoyed this book. Highly recommend this one.

* Maggie O’Farrell- Instructions for a Heatwave- family crisis and resolution when the father goes missing when out buying a newspaper. Interesting sub plot in an examination of undiagnosed dyslexia. A good read.

*Laline Paull- The Bees- think Watership Down or Duncton Wood. Apply to Bees. How would a hive make sense of the environmental changes that are having an adverse effect on their health? A wonderful book. I cried. I laughed. I loved it. Perfect. My favourite this year.

* Anthony Quinn- The Streets- Expose of Victorian slum clearances and early ideas of eugenics. Very well written and complemented the BBC2 Programme The Victorian Slum.

* James Redfield- The Celestine Prophesy. I understand that this book was a huge new wave hit when it was first published 20 years ago. I selected the book for its cover,  a pretty valley and lake, that it was set in Peru, and the praise on the back. I gather there is quite a big cult following for the book, so apologies to anyone who likes the book. I found it to be a lazily plotted and poorly written thriller put together to expound  some self help which frankly Oprah and her Doctor did much better. It might have well have been set in Lancashire for all it told me about Peru. The cover illustration is the best bit. But that’s just my opinion! Others may think differently, so take no notice of me.

C J Sansom- Dissolution. Medieval lawyer solves mysterious death in a monastery in Tudor times. An early book from this author and much more a straight mystery novel without a lot of historical shenanigans. Prefer his later books.

*John Steinbeck- The Long Valley. Possibly my favourite author ever. A volume of early short stories. Entertaining but not brilliant.

* John Steinbeck- To a God Unknown- Such a good author I read two of his books. This one is amazing. Love it. Steinbeck’s love of the his little piece of California just flows from the page. The writing is sublime. LOVE IT.

Donna Tartt- The Goldfinch- With 771 pages this is not for the faint hearted. I loved the book for the first 640 pages. A lovely leisurely pace and descriptions so good I was there with the characters, a real fly on the wall experience. Many long books have far too many characters that you can’t keep up with. Not so this book, few characters and you know then all really well. But not many I warmed too, the exceptions being Hobie and Pippa.

The book begins in New York before switching to Vegas. Then we head off to Amsterdam and the plot quickens but the pace remained the same so seemed a bit out of kilter to me. The story reminded me of Snatch or Lock Stock but without the humour. There was a good twist which resolved things, then  some navel gazing and then the book just frizzled out. A disappointing end.

Colm Toibin-The Empty Family- A volume of short stories which I didn’t like. I only read them all because I hoped I would like the next one… I liked half of the one called The New Spain, as it began at the time of Franco’s demise and the changes that brought. We spent many holidays in Spain at this time, so I could recognise the scenario, but then it fizzled out . Can’t like all the books I choose, and thank heavens for the library and borrowing them for free.

Joanna Trollope- The Soldier’s Wife. A modern tale of a family adjusting to life when Dad is home on leave. A jolly good yarn from the Queen of the Aga Saga!

* Anne Tyler- A Spool of Blue Thread- A family story in which the relationship of three generations is examined. Started off in a most promising way and then. Oh why do authors do it? Set up an interesting situation, then one of the main characters dies so there is no development of the story. Fizzles out into the past before returning to the present in which people just move on . Just annoying.

* Lisa Unger- In the Blood- I only choose this book as it was the only author beginning with a U. I would never have chosen it otherwise. The title and the cover did not appeal. And how sad would that have been . It was a very good psychological thriller. A real page turner. Knitting stopped while I read this in two days. And that is why I started my read through the alphabet challenge.

* Sally Vickers- Where Three Roads Meet- didn’t warm to the book, about Freud and Oedipus.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon- The Prisoner of Heaven- The third in a series of novels set in Barcelona, in which books themselves are central to the plot. I have only read the first in the series The Shadow of the Wind, which I struggled with at the time with unfamiliar names and a complicated plot. The Prisoner of Heaven was most enjoyable. I am familiar with the characters and the plot is more straightforward. I loved the book and can’t wait to find the second one in the library. If you read the first book, persevere with it and I can thoroughly recommend The Prisoner of Heaven if you enjoy mystery stories and books.

Carlos Ruiz ZafonThe Midnight Palace- This is short novel is set in Calcutta, and tells the story of a group of 16-year-old orphans as they spend their last days in the orphanage. It is beautifully told ghost story. Highly recommend this too.

Non Fiction

Elisabeth Alley- Faithfully to Meeting- A Short History of Quakers in Pickering

Janet Bolton- Fabric Pictures. A brilliant book which I read from cover to cover. A workshop on how to create fabric pictures. Loved it.

Edward Enfield- Greece on my Wheels- The journey of a nearly 70-year-old by bike around Greece. Thoroughly enjoyable read with enough history and antidotes to keep me entertained.

Peter Higgnbotham- Voices from the Workhouse- Collection of first hand accounts of life in the workhouse, includes, staff, residents and reports. Fascinating insight.

Pamela Horn- Life in a Victorian Household– on upstairs and downstairs, what it was really like.

Future Learn- 6 week course online- Family History. Thoroughly enjoyabale and a course I would recommend for beginners. Not strictly a book, but I am counting it as one of my 5 Non Fiction reads.

Books Abandoned- I rarely give up on a book but Henry James and  What Maisie Knew defeated me. I read nearly 200 pages and realized I just could not read the other 80 or so. I can only conclude that me and Henry James are just a nono.

Total 2016- 43, exactly the same number as last year. Well I never.


Kate Atkinson- Started Early, took my dog

Kate Atknison- Not the end of the world

Charlotte Betts -The Painter’s Apprentice

John Buchan – The Thirty Nine Steps

Tracey Chevalier- The Last Runaway

Ann Cleeves- Baby-snatcher

Ann Cleeves- The Crow Trap

Ann Cleeves- Telling Tales

Ann Cleeves- Harbour Street

Ann Cleeves- The Sleeping and the Dead

Ann Cleeves- Thin Air

A J Cronin -The Northern Light

Helen Fielding- Bridget Jones, Mad about the Boy

Nathan Filer- The Shock of the Fall

Gillian Flynn- Gone Girl

Anthea Fraser- The Unburied Past

Robert Goddard- Dying to Tell

Robert Goddard- Past Caring

John Grisham -The Broker

John Grisham -The Pelican Brief

John Grisham- The Brethren

John Grisham- The Testament

John Grisham- The Partner

Tessa Hadley- The Past

Paula Hawkins- The Girl on the Train

Susan Hill- The Small Hand

Susan Hill- Printer’s Devils Court

Daniel Klein- Travels with Epicurus

Alexander McCall Smith- The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection

Alexander McCall Smith-The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Cafe

Alexander McCall Smith- The Cleverness of Ladies

Alexander McCall Smith- The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon

Sarah Moss- Night Waking

Tony Parsons- Men from the Boys

Barbara Pym- Excellent Women

Ruth Rendall- Thirteen Steps Down

Edward Rutherford- The Forest

Saki ( H.H. Munro)- A Shot in the dark

C. J. Sansom- Lamentation

Noel Streatfield- Tea by the Nursery Fire

Colm Toibin- The Master

Anne Tyler- Noah’s Compass

Carlos Ruiz Zafon- The Shadow of the Wind

Total- 43. You can sure tell I retired this year!!


Kate Atkinson Time After Time

Beryl Bainbridge The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress

Charlotte Betts The Spice Merchants Wife

Charles Dickens-A Christmas Carol

Daphne Du Maurier- Jamaica Inn

Timothy Egan-The Worst Hard Time

Dick Francis-Field of Thirteen

Phillipa Gregory-The Lady of the Rivers

Phillipa Gregory-The Red Queen

John Grisham- The Last Juror

John Grisham The Litigators

Joanne Harris The Lollipop Shoes

Joanne Harris Peaches for Monsieur le Cure

Joanne Harris Blueeydboy

Joanne Harris Jigs and Reels

Robert Harris The Fear Index

Susan Hill Dolly

Anne Holm- I am David

Eowyn Ivey The Snow Child

Margaret Kennedy-The Constant Nymph

Charlotte Link The Other Child

Jack London-The Sea Wolf

Peter Mayle- A Year in Province

Joanne Trollope-Daughters-in-Law

Joanne Trollope-Friday Nights

Paul Torbay- Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Anne Tyler The Beginner’s Goodbye

Anne Tyler Earthly Possessions

Jeanette Winterson Lighthousekeeping

Total 29

Comments on: "Books 2014-2017" (3)

  1. how do you pick your books to read? are they your favorite authors or? ( :

    • Gosh, a more complicated answer than you might expect. A lot are from authors I already know and like, some are recommendations from family and friends, some I decide to read having read a review by a blogger, some because I saw a film or a TV show, some are reviewed on the radio, and some I choose because I like the sound of the title, then the precis on the cover, and even sometimes I like the picture on the cover.

  2. Murtagh's Meadow said:

    Such an impressive list Cathy. There are some there that I will be adding to my “must read” list. I do love Jane Eyre and reread it last year. I must pick up Joanne Harris again – I have read Five Quarters Of The Orange and Chocolat and I think another and enjoyed all. Many thanks for your recommendations.

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