The jade lily by Kirsty Manning

cynthia-the-jade-lily-e1542597698228.jpgA great historical novel based on the resettlement of Jewish refugees to Shanghai during World War II. I was amazed at how the human spirit can still shine in the most horrendous of situations. The descriptions of life in Shanghai were rich, with food featuring. The modern part of the dual storyline had a few unbelievable coincidences, but I could forgive the author as they made the story flow. I enjoyed the story, particularly learning about this unknown (to me) part of history.

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In the woods by Tana French

Amy in the woodsWhen he was twelve, Adam Ryan went into the local wood with his friends, and something most terrible happened. His friends were never seen again, and Adam couldn’t remember a thing. Years later, Adam is called Rob and he is on the Dublin Murder Squad when a girl is found murdered in the same wood. I really enjoyed this story about two crimes, of course, but also about friendship, childhood and the mess we can make of relationships. It has a delightful Irishness to it, and the ending isn’t too neat.

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Never mind by Edward St Aubyn

Amy Never MindI revelled in the language, even if what it described was rarely lovely. Never Mind is one day in the life of the Melrose family and two sets of their friends. David Melrose is an extraordinarily cruel husband and father, Eleanor, a drunk to escape her reality, and five year old Patrick is trying to navigate his confusing world. It’s a deliciously nasty slice of British wealth, and snobbery, with some foreign viewpoints to critique this world of loathing. A fascinating visit; I wouldn’t want to live there.

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Mockingbird songs by R.J. Ellory

Cynthia Mockingbird SongsA slow burning thriller with an undertone of menace throughout. A story of small town USA and broken families. Henry is released from prision and is asked to deliver a letter to his cell mate’s daughter. Through alternating chapters we follow Henry’s story of keeping his promise to deliver the letter and the story of Evan (his ex cell mate) and his brother Carson and what the contents of that letter may reveal. Loved this format of storytelling as the stories, secrets and carnage are exposed.

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The bookshop of the broken hearted by Robert Hillman

Amy bookshop of the broken heartedIn 1960s rural Australia, kind and gentle farmer, Tom, wife has left him again, this time taking the young boy Tom raised, though the child wasn’t his. A glamorous older woman moves into town, a survivor of Auschwitz, determined to open a bookshop. Tom and Hannah find love, but making a new life is complicated. There is sweetness and humour here, and a lovely setting; I think it would make a popular movie. For me, there wasn’t enough character development, the villains were unconvincing (not the Nazis!) and I just wasn’t captured by this story.

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Mrs M by Luke Slattery

Ali Mrs MThis is the story of  Mrs Elizabeth MacQuarie, second wife of Lachlan MacQuarie, reformist Governor of New South Wales. The novel starts in Scotland at the end of Elizabeth’s story, not the beginning as you might imagine. So the story is a reflection of her journey and life in the colony and the shared dream of reform that Lachlan and Elizabeth planned when they came to Sydney.

This is a fictional account of historical figures and I am not sure of the reality of Elizabeth’s relationship with the architect who designed and built her famous ‘Chair’ at Sydney harbour. In the book her much older husband is often busy and distracted giving the younger  architect the appeal that makes this story  both romantic and intriguing. However there are personalities who wish to continue the brutal control that has been the norm of the colony , contradictory to the MacQuarie’s more benign influences which ultimately causes the downfall of the MacQuarie reign in the colonies.

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