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Cast Your Vote for October’s Read

Is it really October already!? Perfect month for snuggling up in front of the fire with a good book, so let’s see of we can choose one!  I hope you find something you like amongst this month’s choices . . . to cast your vote, hop on over to the Facebook group.  Happy reading. Big love Amanda xx

 

The Jane Austen Society – Natalie Jenner 

Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Chawton was the final home of Jane Austen, one of England’s finest novelists. Now it’s home to a few distant relatives and their diminishing estate. With the last bit of Austen’s legacy threatened, a group of disparate individuals come together to preserve both Jane Austen’s home and her legacy. These people—a laborer, a young widow, the local doctor, and a movie star, among others—could not be more different and yet they are united in their love for the works and words of Austen. As each of them endures their own quiet struggle with loss and trauma, some from the recent war, others from more distant tragedies, they rally together to create the Jane Austen Society.

 

 

The Invited – Jennifer McMahon

A chilling ghost story with a twist: the New York Times bestselling author of The Winter People returns to the woods of Vermont to tell the story of a husband and wife who don’t simply move into a haunted house–they build one . . .

In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate have abandoned the comforts of suburbia to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this beautiful property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the local legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. With her passion for artefacts, Helen finds special materials to incorporate into the house–a beam from an old schoolroom, bricks from a mill, a mantel from a farmhouse–objects that draw her deeper into the story of Hattie and her descendants, three generations of Breckenridge women, each of whom died suspiciously. As the building project progresses, the house will become a place of menace and unfinished business: a new home, now haunted, that beckons its owners and their neighbours toward unimaginable danger.

 

The Institute – Stephen King

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

 

Lariat Girl – Suzanne Prescott

What would you do if your child was abducted—and the ransom was your other child?
AN ORIGINAL, GRIPPING THRILLER WITH A STRONG FEARLESS HEROINE WHO RISKS HER LIFE TO SAVE HER BROTHER—AND AN UNFLINCHING DESCENT INTO THE DISTURBED MIND OF A KILLER. Based on the award-winning screenplay.

A routine blood donation puts high school senior and gifted athlete Kenley Madson in the path of a twisted serial killer who collects women who resemble his dead mother. When her little brother is kidnapped and held for an unthinkable ransom, Kenley must choose between her freedom and his. The choice is easy. What comes after is anything but.

While detectives and her family search for her, Kenley wakes up to a special kind of depraved hell—in a facility populated with blonde, green-eyed girls who all look like her. It’s a museum curated for one man. And every exhibit is a replica of his dead mama, their bodies primped and preened and scoured into perverted perfection. Although she’s never met a physical challenge she couldn’t master, surviving the mercurial whims of a perverse and delusional man—and the people who enable him—will push Kenley to her limits.

Lockdown – Peter May

Written over fifteen years ago, this prescient, suspenseful thriller is set against a backdrop of a capital city in quarantine, and explores human experience in the grip of a killer virus.

‘They said that twenty-five percent of the population would catch the flu. Between seventy and eighty percent of them would die. He had been directly exposed to it, and the odds weren’t good.’

A CITY IN QUARANTINE

London, the epicenter of a global pandemic, is a city in lockdown. Violence and civil disorder simmer. Martial law has been imposed. No-one is safe from the deadly virus that has already claimed thousands of victims. Health and emergency services are overwhelmed.

A MURDERED CHILD

At a building site for a temporary hospital, construction workers find a bag containing the rendered bones of a murdered child. A remorseless killer has been unleashed on the city; his mission is to take all measures necessary to prevent the bones from being identified.

A POWERFUL CONSPIRACY

D.I. Jack MacNeil, counting down the hours on his final day with the Met, is sent to investigate. His career is in ruins, his marriage over and his own family touched by the virus. Sinister forces are tracking his every move, prepared to kill again to conceal the truth. Which will stop him first – the virus or the killers?

 

 

 

 

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Vote for the Book of the Month for September!

Hi book peeps!  How is it September already! Looking forward to a cosy month with lots of reading, especially now the kids are back at school!  Here’s the five choices for this month, to cast your vote, hop on over to the Facebook group.  Happy reading. Big love Amanda xx

 

The Wild Silence – Raynor Winn 

Magical and life-affirming new book, The Wild Silence – the follow-up to the uplifting, Sunday Times, internationally bestselling, Wainwright prize shortlisted, and Costa shortlisted, The Salt Path.

Nature holds the answers for Raynor and her husband Moth. After walking 630 homeless miles along The Salt Path, living on the windswept and wild English coastline; the cliffs, the sky and the chalky earth now feel like their home.

Moth has a terminal diagnosis, but against all medical odds, he seems revitalized in nature. Together on the wild coastal path, with their feet firmly rooted outdoors, they discover that anything is possible.

Now, life beyond The Salt Path awaits and they come back to four walls, but the sense of home is illusive and returning to normality is proving difficult – until an incredible gesture by someone who reads their story changes everything.

A chance to breathe life back into a beautiful farmhouse nestled deep in the Cornish hills; rewilding the land and returning nature to its hedgerows becomes their saving grace and their new path to follow.

The Wild Silence is a story of hope triumphing over despair, of lifelong love prevailing over everything. It is a luminous account of the human spirit’s instinctive connection to nature, and how vital it is for us all.

 

Gods of Jade and Shadow – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

 

Fifty Fifty – Steve Cavanagh 

Two sisters on trial for murder. They accuse each other.
Who do YOU believe?

‘911 what’s your emergency?’

‘My dad’s dead. My sister Sofia killed him. She’s still in the house. Please send help.’

‘My dad’s dead. My sister Alexandra killed him. She’s still in the house. Please send help.’

One of them is a liar and a killer.

But which one?

 

 

Broken Ghost – Niall Griffiths

A Welsh community is drawn together and blown apart by a strange vision in the mountains: the huge spectre of a woman floating over a ridge. The people who live here in these mountains already have their own demons – drink, drugs, domestic violence, psychoses – but each character has a different experience of this strange apparition, a different reaction, and for some it will change everything. Is it a collective hallucination? A meteorological phenomenon? Whatever it is, they all saw something, early one morning on the shores of a mountain lake, something that will awaken in them powers and passions and, perhaps, a possibility of healing these broken people in a broken country.

An examination of modern humanity’s desperate need to live meaningfully and vividly in a mediated world – where individual autonomy is lost and the collective heart is atomised and exploited – this is a novel that gives voices to the marginalised, the dispossessed, the forgotten. Disturbing and unforgettable, darkly funny and deeply moving, written in a charged language that is vernacular, lyrical and hieratic all at once, Broken Ghost is – simultaneously – a howl of anguish and a summoning of gods.

 

The Nanny – Gillian Macmillan 

When her beloved nanny, Hannah, left without a trace in the summer of 1988, seven-year-old Jocelyn Holt was devastated. Haunted by the loss, Jo grew up bitter and distant, and eventually left her parents and Lake Hall, their faded aristocratic home, behind.

Thirty years later, Jo returns to the house and is forced to confront her troubled relationship with her mother. But when human remains are accidentally uncovered in a lake on the estate, Jo begins to question everything she thought she knew.

Then an unexpected visitor knocks on the door and Jo’s world is destroyed again. Desperate to piece together the gaping holes in her memory, Jo must uncover who her nanny really was, why she left, and if she can trust her own mother…

In this compulsively readable tale of secrets, lies, and deception, Gilly Macmillan explores the darkest impulses and desires of the human heart. Diabolically clever, The Nanny reminds us that sometimes the truth hurts so much you’d rather hear the lie.

 

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Cast Your Vote in Elsie’s Attic Book Club

Hello book lovers! How are you all? I hope you are all coping well during these strange times and finding some spare time for reading?

The vote for August’s read is on.  So many amazing new releases to choose from it was hard to whittle it down to five! I hope you like the ones I have chosen.

To vote on this month’s choice head on over to the Facebook page and cast your photo. Voting closes 12 midnight Thursday 6th August and we will announce the choice the next day! 

See you there! Much love Amanda xx

 

Miss Benson’s Beetle – Rachel Joyce 

Margery Benson’s life ended the day her father walked out of his study and never came back. Forty years later, abandoning a dull job, she advertises for an assistant. The successful candidate is to accompany Margery on an expedition to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist. Enid Pretty is not who she had in mind. But together they will find themselves drawn into an adventure that exceeds all Margery’s expectations, eventually finding new life at the top of a red mountain.

This is a story that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story and it is also a tender exploration of a friendship between two unforgettable women that defies all boundaries

 

I am an Island – Tamsin Calidas

When Tamsin Calidas first arrives on a remote island in the Scottish Hebrides, it feels like coming home. Disenchanted by London, she and her husband left the city and high-flying careers to move the 500 miles north, despite having absolutely no experience of crofting, or of island life. It was idyllic, for a while. But as the months wear on, the children she’d longed for fail to materialise, and her marriage breaks down, Tamsin finds herself in ever-increasing isolation.

Injured, ill, without money or friend she is pared right back, stripped to becoming simply a raw element of the often harsh landscape. But with that immersion in her surroundings comes the possibility of rebirth and renewal. Tamsin begins the slow journey back from the brink.

Startling, raw and extremely moving, I Am An Island is a story about the incredible ability of the natural world to provide when everything else has fallen away – a stunning book about solitude, friendship, resilience and self-discovery.

 

Burnt Sugar – Avni Doshi 

In her youth, Tara was wild. She abandoned her loveless marriage to join an ashram, endured a brief stint as a beggar (mostly to spite her affluent parents), and spent years chasing after a dishevelled, homeless ‘artist’ – all with her young child in tow. Now she is forgetting things, mixing up her maid’s wages and leaving the gas on all night, and her grown-up daughter is faced with the task of caring for a woman who never cared for her.

This is a love story and a story about betrayal. But not between lovers – between mother and daughter. Sharp as a blade and laced with caustic wit, Burnt Sugar unpicks the slippery, choking cord of memory and myth that binds two women together, making and unmaking them endlessly.

 

 

 

Feathertide – Beth Cartwright

Born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets, Marea has always known she was different, but never known why. And so to find answers, she goes in search of the father she has never met.

The hunt leads her to the City of Murmurs, a place of mermaids and mystery, where jars of swirling mist are carried through the streets by the broken-hearted.

And Marea will never forget what she learns there

 

 

 

A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom – John Boyne 

Some stories are universal. They play out across human history. And time is the river which will flow through them.

It starts with a family, a family which will mutate. For now, it is a father, mother and two sons. One with his father’s violence in his blood. One who lives his mother’s artistry. One leaves. One stays. They will be joined by others whose deeds will change their fate. It is a beginning.

Their stories will intertwine and evolve over the course of two thousand years – they will meet again and again at different times and in different places. From distant Palestine at the dawn of the first millennium to a life amongst the stars in the third. While the world will change around them, their destinies will remain the same. It must play out as foretold. It is written.

A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom is the extraordinary new novel from acclaimed writer John Boyne. Ambitious, far-reaching and mythic, it introduces a group of characters whose lives we will come to know and will follow through time and space until they reach their natural conclusion

 

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Book Club – Vote for this month’s read . . .

Hello book lovers! How are you all? I hope you are managing to squeeze in some reading during lockdown?

The vote for July’s read is on.  So many wonderful choices to choose from it was hard to whittle it down to five! I hope you like the ones I have chosen.

To vote on this month’s choice head on over to the Facebook page and cast your photo. Voting closes 12 midnight Friday 3rd July and we will announce the choice the next day! 

See you there! Much love Amanda xx

 

The Phonebox at the Edge of the World – Laura Imai Messina

We all have something to tell those we have lost . . .

When Yui loses her mother and daughter in the tsunami, she wonders how she will ever carry on. Yet, in the face of this unthinkable loss, life must somehow continue. Then one day she hears about a man who has an old disused telephone box in his garden. There, those who have lost loved ones find the strength to speak to them and begin to come to terms with their grief. As news of the phone box spreads, people will travel to it from miles around. Soon Yui will make her own pilgrimage to the phone box, too. But once there she cannot bring herself to speak into the receiver. Then she finds Takeshi, a bereaved husband whose own daughter has stopped talking in the wake of their loss.

What happens next will warm your heart, even when it feels as though it is breaking. For when you’ve lost everything – what can you find?

 

 

Sorry for the Dead – Nicola Upson

In the summer of 1915, the sudden death of a young girl brings grief and notoriety to Charleston Farmhouse on the Sussex Downs.

Years later, Josephine Tey returns to the same house–now much changed–and remembers the two women with whom she once lodged as a young teacher during the Great War. As past and present collide, with murders decades apart, Josephine is forced to face the possibility that the scandal which threatened to destroy those women’s lives hid a much darker secret.

 

 

 

 

Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams

Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.

As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.

With “fresh and honest” (Jojo Moyes) prose, Queenie is a remarkably relatable exploration of what it means to be a modern woman searching for meaning in today’s world

 

The Burning Land – George Alagiah

‘It was never meant to be like this. Sabotage, yes. Propaganda, yes. All of that and more – but not this. Not murder.’

South Africa has become a powder keg. Its precious land is being sold off to the highest bidders while the country’s corrupt elite pocket the profits. As the dreams and hopes of its people are threatened, frustration turns to violence. With the shocking murder of one of the country’s bright young hopes, the fuse is well and truly lit.

Conflict mediator Lindi and her childhood friend Kagiso find themselves in the heart of the chaos, fighting to save themselves and their country as events are set in motion that no one – least of all they – can control.

 

 

 

Where the Forest Meets the Stars – Glendy Vanderah

After the loss of her mother and her own battle with breast cancer, Joanna Teale returns to her graduate research on nesting birds in rural Illinois, determined to prove that her recent hardships have not broken her. She throws herself into her work from dusk to dawn, until her solitary routine is disrupted by the appearance of a mysterious child who shows up at her cabin barefoot and covered in bruises.

The girl calls herself Ursa, and she claims to have been sent from the stars to witness five miracles. With concerns about the child’s home situation, Jo reluctantly agrees to let her stay—just until she learns more about Ursa’s past.

Jo enlists the help of her reclusive neighbor, Gabriel Nash, to solve the mystery of the charming child. But the more time they spend together, the more questions they have. How does a young girl not only read but understand Shakespeare? Why do good things keep happening in her presence? And why aren’t Jo and Gabe checking the missing children’s website anymore?

Though the three have formed an incredible bond, they know difficult choices must be made. As the summer nears an end and Ursa gets closer to her fifth miracle, her dangerous past closes in. When it finally catches up to them, all of their painful secrets will be forced into the open, and their fates will be left to the stars.

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Elsie’s Attic Book Club – The Vote is on for June’s Read

Hello book lovers! How are you all. I do hope you are safe and well.

The vote for June’s read is on.  So many wonderful choices to choose from it was hard to whittle it down to five! I hope you like the ones I have chosen.

To vote on this month’s choice head on over to the Facebook page and cast your photo. Voting closes 12 midnight Saturday 6th June and we will announce the choice the next day! 

See you there! Much love Amanda xx

The Witness – Nora Roberts

Daughter of a controlling mother, Elizabeth finally let loose one night, drinking at a nightclub and allowing a strange man’s seductive Russian accent lure her to a house on Lake Shore Drive. The events that followed changed her life forever.

Twelve years later, the woman known as Abigail Lowery lives on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks. A freelance programmer, she designs sophisticated security systems — and supplements her own security with a fierce dog and an assortment of firearms. She keeps to herself, saying little, revealing nothing. But Abigail’s reserve only intrigues police chief Brooks Gleason. Her logical mind, her secretive nature, and her unromantic viewpoints leave him fascinated but frustrated. He suspects that Abigail needs protection from something — and that her elaborate defenses hide a story that must be revealed.

With a quirky, unforgettable heroine and a pulse-pounding plotline, Nora Roberts presents a riveting new read that cements her place as today’s most reliably entertaining thriller — and will leave people hungering for more.

 

Lost Connections – Johann Hari

From the New York Times bestselling author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, a startling challenge to our thinking about depression and anxiety.

Award-winning journalist Johann Hari suffered from depression since he was a child and started taking antidepressants when he was a teenager. He was told—like his entire generation—that his problem was caused by a chemical imbalance in his brain. As an adult, trained in the social sciences, he began to investigate this question—and he learned that almost everything we have been told about depression and anxiety is wrong.

Across the world, Hari discovered social scientists who were uncovering the real causes—and they are mostly not in our brains, but in the way we live today. Hari’s journey took him from the people living in the tunnels beneath Las Vegas, to an Amish community in Indiana, to an uprising in Berlin—all showing in vivid and dramatic detail these new insights. They lead to solutions radically different from the ones we have been offered up until now.

Just as Chasing the Scream transformed the global debate about addiction, with over twenty million views for his TED talk and the animation based on it, Lost Connections will lead us to a very different debate about depression and anxiety—one that shows how, together, we can end this epidemic.

 

 

Blackout Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget – Sarah Hepola

Alcohol was “the gasoline of all adventure” for Sarah Hepola. She spent her evenings at cocktail parties and dark bars where she proudly stayed till last call. Drinking felt like freedom, part of her birthright as a strong, enlightened twenty-first-century woman.

But there was a price. She often blacked out, waking up with a blank space where four hours should have been. Mornings became detective work on her own life. What did I say last night? How did I meet that guy? She apologized for things she couldn’t remember doing, as though she were cleaning up after an evil twin. Publicly, she covered her shame with self-deprecating jokes, and her career flourished, but as the blackouts accumulated, she could no longer avoid a sinking truth. The fuel she thought she needed was draining her spirit instead.

A memoir of unblinking honesty and poignant, laugh-out-loud humor, Blackout is the story of a woman stumbling into a new kind of adventure—the sober life she never wanted. Shining a light into her blackouts, she discovers the person she buried, as well as the confidence, intimacy, and creativity she once believed came only from a bottle. Her tale will resonate with anyone who has been forced to reinvent or struggled in the face of necessary change. It’s about giving up the thing you cherish most—but getting yourself back in return.

 

Ask Again, Yes – Mary Beth Keane

A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the bond between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, the daily intimacies of marriage, and the power of forgiveness.

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, two rookie cops in the NYPD, live next door to each other outside the city. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne—sets the stage for the explosive events to come.

Ask Again, Yes is a deeply affecting exploration of the lifelong friendship and love that blossoms between Francis and Lena’s daughter, Kate, and Brian and Anne’s son, Peter. Luminous, heartbreaking, and redemptive, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story, while tested by echoes from the past, is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.

 

Big Summer – Jennifer Weiner

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the “nothing short of brilliant” (PeopleMrs. Everything returns with an unforgettable novel about friendship and forgiveness set during a disastrous wedding on picturesque Cape Cod.

Six years after the fight that ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when Drue Cavanaugh walks back into her life, looking as lovely and successful as ever, with a massive favor to ask. Daphne hasn’t spoken one word to Drue in all this time—she doesn’t even hate-follow her ex-best friend on social media—so when Drue asks if she will be her maid-of-honor at the society wedding of the summer, Daphne is rightfully speechless.

Drue was always the one who had everything—except the ability to hold onto friends. Meanwhile, Daphne’s no longer the same self-effacing sidekick she was back in high school. She’s built a life that she loves, including a growing career as a plus-size Instagram influencer. Letting glamorous, seductive Drue back into her life is risky, but it comes with an invitation to spend a weekend in a waterfront Cape Cod mansion. When Drue begs and pleads and dangles the prospect of cute single guys, Daphne finds herself powerless as ever to resist her friend’s siren song.

A sparkling novel about the complexities of female friendship, the pitfalls of living out loud and online, and the resilience of the human heart, Big Summer is a witty, moving story about family, friendship, and figuring out what matters most.

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Book Club – The Vote is on for May’s Read

Hello book lovers! How are you all. I do hope you are safe and well and coping OK in lockdown?

The vote for May’s read is on.  So many wonderful choices to choose from it was hard to whittle it down to five! I hope you like the ones I have chosen.

To vote on this month’s choice head on over to the Facebook page and cast your photo. Voting closes 12 midnight Tuesday 5th May and we will announce the choice the next day! 

See you there! Much love Amanda xx

 

THE DUTCH HOUSE – ANN PATCHETT 

Danny Conroy grows up in the Dutch House, a lavish folly in small-town Pennsylvania taken on by his property developer father. Though his father is distant and his mother is absent, Danny has his beloved sister Maeve: Maeve, with her wall of black hair, her delicacy, her brilliance.

Life is comfortable and coherent, played out under the watchful eyes of the house’s former owners in the frames of their oil paintings, or under the cover of the draperies around the window seat in Maeve’s room. Then one day their father brings Andrea home: Andrea, small and neat, a dark hat no bigger than a saucer pinned over a twist of her fair hair. Though they cannot know it, Andrea’s advent to the Dutch House sows the seed of the defining loss of Danny and Maeve’s lives.

Her arrival will exact a banishment: a banishment whose reverberations will echo for the rest of their lives. For all that the world is open to him, for all that he can accumulate, for all that life is full, Danny and his sister are drawn back time and again to the place they can never enter, knocking in vain on the locked door of the past. For behind the mystery of their own enforced exile is that of their mother’s self-imposed one: an absence more powerful than any presence they have known.

Told with Ann Patchett’s inimitable blend of wit and heartbreak, The Dutch House is a story of family, betrayal, love, responsibility and sacrifice; of the powerful bonds of place and time that magnetize and repel us for our whole lives, and the lives of those who survive us.

 

ON CHAPEL SANDS: MY MOTHER AND OTHER MISSING PERSONS – LAURA CUMMING

Uncovering the mystery of her mother’s disappearance as a child: Laura Cumming, prize-winning author and art critic, takes a closer look at her family story.

In the autumn of 1929, a small child was kidnapped from a Lincolnshire beach. Five agonising days went by before she was found in a nearby village. The child remembered nothing of these events and nobody ever spoke of them at home. It was another fifty years before she even learned of the kidnap.

The girl became an artist and had a daughter, art writer Laura Cumming. Cumming grew up enthralled by her mother’s strange tales of life in a seaside hamlet of the 1930s, and of the secrets and lies perpetuated by a whole community. So many puzzles remained to be solved. Cumming began with a few criss-crossing lives in this fraction of English coast – the postman, the grocer, the elusive baker – but soon her search spread right out across the globe as she discovered just how many lives were affected by what happened that day on the beach – including her own.

On Chapel Sands is a book of mystery and memoir. Two narratives run through it: the mother’s childhood tale; and Cumming’s own pursuit of the truth. Humble objects light up the story: a pie dish, a carved box, an old Vick’s jar. Letters, tickets, recipe books, even the particular slant of a copperplate hand give vital clues. And pictures of all kinds, from paintings to photographs, open up like doors to the truth. Above all, Cumming discovers how to look more closely at the family album – with its curious gaps and missing persons – finding crucial answers, captured in plain sight at the click of a shutter.

 

THE RECOVERY OF ROSE GOLD –  STEPHANIE WROBEL

Rose Gold Watts believed she was sick for eighteen years.

She thought she needed the feeding tube, the surgeries, the wheelchair . . .

Turns out her mother is a really good liar.

After five years in prison, Patty Watts is finally free. All she wants is to put old grievances behind her, reconcile with the daughter who testified against her – and care for her new infant grandson.

When Rose Gold agrees to have Patty move in, it seems their relationship is truly on the mend. And she has waited such a long time for her mother to come home.

But is she still the pliable young girl she once was? And is Patty still as keen on settling an old score?

Because if mothers never forget then daughters never forgive.

 

VOX – CHRISTINA DALCHER

Set in an America where half the population has been silenced, VOX is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed to speak more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial—this can’t happen here. Not in America. Not to her.

This is just the beginning.

Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.

But this is not the end.

For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.

 

MY DARK VANESSA – KATE ELIZABETH RUSSELL

Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of RoomMy Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.

 

 

 

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Elsie’s Attic Book Club: Interview with Author Chloe Kent

OK, final question that I just need to ask . . . What did your mother in law say to the book?

She doesn’t know! I know that’s probably not the answer people will want  but for now it’s true. I think because my husband cut all contact so she hasn’t been aware of what we have been doing.

I’m a little nervous about what she might try and do when/if she finds out. But we are quite well protected now by the non-molestation order.

I did repeatedly discuss it with my husband before the book was released. I wanted to be hundred percent sure that he was happy and comfortable with me releasing it. He was my biggest supporter and thought the book deserved to be out there. So we did.

Chloe’s book is available to buy on Amazon and she is working on her second novel, too!

 

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Our epic Beetroot & Raspberry Chocolate Vegan Brownies – probably the best you will ever taste!

So, how is life in lockdown going for everyone? Hope you are all well and sending you lots of love and positive vibes from the Attic.

One thing I have always wanted to do it perfect my own recipe for vegan brownies and now we have lots more time on our hands, that’s what I have done.  I thought I’d share it with you beautiful bunch as I know lots of you are keen bakers and foodies!

This makes two trays and I am a bit fast and loose with the measurements so you don’t need too be exacting 

400g beetroot – I buy the cooked stuff, not pickled, obvs!
300g fresh raspberries but frozen would work too
500g dark chocolate, chopped. Most dark chocolate is vegan, Asda do one that is raspberry flavoured this is just epic!
250g vegan spread. I use Floral buttery, all Flora is vegan now
100ml of nut milk – I like Oatly Barista as it is nice and creamy
250g caster sugar
150g wholemeal self-raising flour
Little splash of high quality vanilla flavouring

Break the chocolate up into small chunks into a bowl, add the butter and melt over a saucepan of hot water.

Whisk together the milk and sugar. Add the chocolate mixture.

I whizz the beetroot and raspberries up in the Nutribullet as my boys act as though fresh fruit will poison them so that way I can hide it! But, I think it is nicer if you can mash up the raspberries and grate the beetroot. Add the beet and berry mixture to the chocolate mix. Fold in the flour and dash of vanilla.

Pour into a lined, deep baking tray. Cook in the oven on approx gas mark 4 for around half an hour. I like mine nice and gooey so I take them out when the centre is still quite soft. Cook for longer if you prefer them to be more cake like.

Happy scoffing, i enjoy mine with a raspberry and mint prosecco, cheers! ❤️✌️🍫🍰🍓

If you give it a go, please let me know what you think and share your piccies on our Facebook page.

Big love – Amanda xx

 

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Book club vote is on! Read all about April’s choices . . .

Happy April everyone! So, in this awful time, I think we could all do so with some distraction so have a read of these summaries and see what piques your interest.

The Light we Lost – Jill Santopolo

Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

 

 

 

The Second Sleep – Robert Harris

All civilisations think they are invulnerable. History warns us none is.

1468. A young priest, Christopher Fairfax, arrives in a remote Exmoor village to conduct the funeral of his predecessor. The land around is strewn with ancient artefacts – coins, fragments of glass, human bones – which the old parson used to collect. Did his obsession with the past lead to his death?

As Fairfax is drawn more deeply into the isolated community, everything he believes – about himself, his faith and the history of his world – is tested to destruction.

 

The Lido – Libby Page

A tender, joyous debut novel about a cub reporter and her eighty-six-year-old subject—and the unlikely and life-changing friendship that develops between them.

Kate is a twenty-six-year-old riddled with anxiety and panic attacks who works for a local paper in Brixton, London, covering forgettably small stories. When she’s assigned to write about the closing of the local lido (an outdoor pool and recreation center), she meets Rosemary, an eighty-six-year-old widow who has swum at the lido daily since it opened its doors when she was a child. It was here Rosemary fell in love with her husband, George; here that she’s found communion during her marriage and since George’s death. The lido has been a cornerstone in nearly every part of Rosemary’s life.

But when a local developer attempts to buy the lido for a posh new apartment complex, Rosemary’s fond memories and sense of community are under threat.

As Kate dives deeper into the lido’s history—with the help of a charming photographer—she pieces together a portrait of the pool, and a portrait of a singular woman, Rosemary. What begins as a simple local interest story for Kate soon blossoms into a beautiful friendship that provides sustenance to both women as they galvanize the community to fight the lido’s closure. Meanwhile, Rosemary slowly, finally, begins to open up to Kate, transforming them both in ways they never knew possible.

In the tradition of Fredrik Backman, The Lido is a charming, feel-good novel that captures the heart and spirit of a community across generations—an irresistible tale of love, loss, aging, and friendship.

 

Dear Mrs Bird – A J Pearce

A charming, irresistible debut novel set in London during World War II about an adventurous young woman who becomes a secret advice columnist—a warm, funny, and enormously moving story for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Lilac Girls.

London 1940, bombs are falling. Emmy Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent seem suddenly achievable. But the job turns out to be typist to the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.

Mrs Bird is very clear: Any letters containing Unpleasantness—must go straight in the bin. But when Emmy reads poignant letters from women who are lonely, may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men and found themselves in trouble, or who can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she is unable to resist responding. As the German planes make their nightly raids, and London picks up the smoldering pieces each morning, Emmy secretly begins to write letters back to the women of all ages who have spilled out their troubles.

Prepare to fall head over heels with Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, who are spirited and gutsy, even in the face of events that bring a terrible blow. As the bombs continue to fall, the irrepressible Emmy keeps writing, and readers are transformed by AJ Pearce’s hilarious, heartwarming, and enormously moving tale of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and ordinary people in extraordinary times.

 

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

“Gosford Park” meets “Groundhog Day” by way of Agatha Christie – the most inventive story you’ll read this year.

Tonight, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed… again.

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

 

To vote on this month’s choice head on over to the Facebook page and cast your photo. Voting closes 12 midnight Tuesday 31st March and we will announce the choice the next day! 

See you there! Much love Amanda xx

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Vote for March’s Read of the Month for our Epic Book Club

How is it March already! Anyway, we have five great books for you to vote on this month.  Here is a short summary of each to help you make up your mind!

Educated by Tara Westover

 

Tara Westover and her family grew up in a fundamentalist Mormon community in the mountains of Idaho preparing for the End of Days but, according to the government, she didn’t exist. She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in hospitals. She spent her days stewing hers and salvaging. Entirely self taught and cut off from the modern world.

As she grew older, her father became more radical and her brother more violent. At sixteen, Tara knew she had to leave home. In doing so she discovered both the transformative power of education, and the price she had to pay for it. She eventually studied at Harvard and Cambridge. Unflinching and fascinating.

 

 

 

The Cactus – Sarah Haywood

In this charming and poignant debut, one woman’s unconventional journey to finding love means learning to embrace the unexpected.

For Susan Green, messy emotions don’t fit into the equation of her perfectly ordered life. She has a flat that is ideal for one, a job that suits her passion for logic, and an “interpersonal arrangement” that provides cultural and other, more intimate, benefits. But suddenly confronted with the loss of her mother and the news that she is about to become a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is realized. She is losing control.

Enter Rob, the dubious but well-meaning friend of her indolent brother. As Susan’s due date draws near and her dismantled world falls further into a tailspin, Susan finds an unlikely ally in Rob. She might have a chance at finding real love and learning to love herself, if only she can figure out how to let go

 

Followers – Megan Angelo

Orla Cadden is a budding novelist stuck in a dead-end job, writing clickbait about movie-star hookups and influencer yoga moves. Then Orla meets Floss―a striving wannabe A-lister―who comes up with a plan for launching them both into the high-profile lives they dream about. So what if Orla and Floss’s methods are a little shady and sometimes people get hurt? Their legions of followers can’t be wrong.

Thirty-five years later, in a closed California village where government-appointed celebrities live every moment of the day on camera, a woman named Marlow discovers a shattering secret about her past. Despite her massive popularity―twelve million loyal followers―Marlow dreams of fleeing the corporate sponsors who would do anything to keep her on-screen. When she learns that her whole family history is based on a lie, Marlow finally summons the courage to run in search of the truth, no matter the risks.

Followers traces the paths of Orla, Floss and Marlow as they wind through time toward each other, and toward a cataclysmic event that sends America into lasting upheaval. At turns wry and tender, bleak and hopeful, this darkly funny story reminds us that even if we obsess over famous people we’ll never meet, what we really crave is genuine human connection.

 

The Chain – Adrian McKinty

You just dropped off your child at the bus stop. A panicked stranger calls your phone. Your child has been kidnapped, and the stranger explains that their child has also been kidnapped, by a completely different stranger. The only way to get your child back is to kidnap another child within 24 hours. Your child will be released only when the next victim’s parents kidnap yet another child, and most importantly, the stranger explains, if you don’t kidnap a child, or if the next parents don’t kidnap a child, your child will be murdered. You are now part of The Chain

 

 

 

 

 

The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Alix E Harrow

In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.

 

To vote on this month’s choice head on over to the Facebook page and cast your photo. Voting closes 12 midnight Tuesday 3rd March and we will announce the choice the next day! 

See you there! Much love Amanda xx

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