The Heartwood Hotel by Kerry McGinnis

Cynthia Heartwood Hotel

An Australian story with the small rural town of Tewinga at its heart. There is a lot to like here – family, community life, mystery and drama. The storyline was a little bit predictable, but it was a great story to pass time with on a long train journey.

You never know what goes on in a small country town!

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The lake house by Kate Morton

Amy The Lake HouseYou know what you are going to get with a Kate Morton novel; a lush, English setting, and an historical mystery solved in the modern day. This time the setting is a beautiful house in Cornwall, with lush gardens, and there are two mysteries to be solved. The resolution is perhaps neater than it needs to be, but it was in keeping with the book – quirky characters, twists and turns, happy ending.

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Clade by James Bradley

Amy CladeThe cover of Clade is beautiful, and the novel did not disappoint. It begins now, and moves forwards in time, with each section looking at something terrible happening because of the environment. It is dystopian, in that there are major and far-reaching disasters that occur because of climate change, but it is also hopeful. Each section introduces new characters, and the reader has to work to make the connections, which I loved. It is frightening, gripping, global, personal and life-affirming.

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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 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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Harmless like you by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Amy Harmless Like YouYuki is a Japanese teenager, living in New York City in the late 60s; no longer belonging in Japan, she is also an outsider in New York. Her parents return to Japan, and she stays, with an almost friend, and for the next few years tries to be an artist. The story of her son, set in the current day,is also told, as he tries to adjust to parenthood, and wonders why his mother left him. It’s a quietly bleak story, with flashes emotion, of Yuki and Jay’s internal struggle for meaning and place, and for peace within themselves. The characters are deeply flawed, most are unlikeable, and it is a touch melancholy, but it is strangely suspenseful and compelling.

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Caroline: little house revisited by Sarah Miller

cynthia-caroline.jpgThe Little House books were among my favourites as a child, so when I saw this title I just had to read it. Sarah was able to capture the Ingalls’ journey across the prairie, but I did loose some of the story with the over detailed accounts of events. I could picture Caroline as she would of presented to Laura in her books, but internally have different thoughts and feelings. It was a good representation of what a mother and wife goes through, what it takes to hold a family together, the need to suppress your own feelings or to be a bit selfish.

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