Howard’s End by E. M. Forster

Amy Howards EndI recently watched the excellent mini-series adaptation of Howards End, and returned to the book, which I first read many years ago. I didn’t really understand it then, having just come from the more straightforward romance of A Room with a View. This time around, I loved it. It is the story of two families; one independent and intellectual, and the other practical and conventional, and how they can connect. The setting is gorgeous; bustling London and flowering rural England, and the characters funny, frustrating, wild, insightful and affectionate, as they go on this journey towards really connecting.

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The ballad of Banjo Crossing

Cynthia Ballad of Banjo CrossingA stranger arrives in Banjo Crossing and soon becomes part of the community, but of course he is hiding from something. It did not take me long to fall in love with the characters of Banjo Crossing and their lives. The story is a heartwarming look at country life, community spirit and love.

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The great alone by Kristin Hannah

amy-the-great-alone.jpgThe Great Alone is about Alaska in the 1970s; beautiful, remote, harsh, and populated with a small and tightly knit community. Ernt Allbright, recently returned from Vietnam and deeply scarred by the experience, brings his wife and thirteen year old daughter, Leni, to start afresh. Their struggle to survive both breaks and makes them. The characters, including Alaska itself, are strong and compelling, and while I found the story a little overwrought towards the end, on the whole it was a moving story about love, damage, kindness and belonging.

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Sweet by Yotam Ottalenghi and Helen Goh

Amy SweetThis is a really beautiful book; gorgeous photography, lovely stories to go with the recipes. There are some showstopping recipes, definitely at the fancier end of the scale, but there are some simple ones as well. The great thing about borrowing cookbooks from the library, is that you can see how many recipes you will actually make before you buy it. I made five recipes while I had the book, and want to make many more, so this is one to buy, or borrow again! I made lemon and poppy seed cake, raspberry and rose powder puffs, the take home chocolate cake, pistachio and rose water semolina cake, and apricot and almond cake with cinnamon topping. I don’t eat sugar, so didn’t taste any, but they were enjoyable to bake, and all went down well with those who did eat them!

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The colour of magic by Terry Pratchett

Amy The Colour of magicI have long been encouraged to read Terry Pratchett, and I put it off, I’m not sure why. I think, somehow, I just had a sense that he wasn’t for me. Perhaps I chose the wrong book. The Colour of Magic is very imaginative, funny, or at least amusing, and action packed, but I didn’t really enjoy it. All action and jokes, no character development and no heart. It’s kind of like a video game, with one dimensional characters moving quickly from one life-threatening situation to the next. If you like that sort of thing, it’s great, but I read for something different.

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The freedom broker by K. J. Howe

cynthia-freedom-broker.jpgThe story began well, introducing Thea and her work. There is a large cast of character to keep a track of, particularly when you were not sure whose side they were on or what was their place in the story, and I became a little lost with the story. The author was able to regain my interest towards the end of the novel as I had to find out who would survive and how the family relationships would resolve.

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The bees by Laline Paull

Amy the BeesBees are fascinating, beautiful, important little creatures, and I thoroughly enjoyed imagining life in a hive. Flora 717 is different from the other bees, even those from her own, low born kin, and through her journey we get to see the many different jobs of bees in a hive. This particular hive has dark secrets, that Flora cannot escape. There is a very strong sense of place and scent, compelling characters, and a tale of sisterhood, faith, love, betrayal, strength and sacrifice.

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