Under the Spanish stars by Alli Sinclair

Cynthia Under the Spanish starsThis was a lovely romantic story set in two storylines; the present day and the Spanish Civil War. The dual storylines worked well together and contained a good mix of history, romance, travel and mystery. I think this story was so enjoyable because I had read Golden earrings by Belinda Alexander earlier in the year which covered the same topics and hence the subject matter and the Spanish terminiology were familiar, increasing my undestanding and enjoyment.

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Summer crossing by Truman Capote

Amy summer crossingAs with Go Set a Watchman, I had qualms about reading this, as Truman had abandoned it, and didn’t want it published. Funny, given the connection between Truman and Harper Lee. Still, I read it, and while it really can’t compare with his later work, I did still enjoy it. It’s a New York story, of youth, wealth and intoxicating love; slim, in more ways than one, but I’m glad I read it.

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Insomniac city by Bill Hayes

Amy Insomniac CityInsomniac City is a love story, about a man who falls in love with New York City and Oliver Sacks. It must be more than twenty years since I read my first Oliver Sacks book, and I have read many since, feeling so drawn to this gentle, ever curious, genius of a man. And, while I am not especially keen on the US as a whole, New York is different, magical somehow. So, this memoir of Bill Hayes’ moving to New York and loving Oliver Sacks until his death, was totally captivating to me. A whimsical , quirky, deeply moving book about love, loss and life well lived.

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Beautiful messy love by Tess Woods

Renee Beautiful Messy LoveTess Woods’s debut novel, Love at First Flight, stayed with me long after I finished reading it, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of her second novel, especially when I discovered that Beautiful Messy Love was the story of the children from the first book. Beautiful Messy Love is a stand alone novel, though.

I found Lily very relatable – in my early 20s, I also struggled with studying a difficult university degree and debated whether to finish it. My heart went out to Anna and I loved Tante Rosa – the grumpy Egyptian matriarch made me smile. My favourite character would be Toby’s brother, John – he cracked me up so many times with his inappropriate, self-absorbed comments.

I went from laughing at hilarious one-liners to sobbing, on multiple occasions – a roller coaster of emotions. Two intertwining love stories, overcoming issues of race, religion, fame and grief. This book is firmly at the top of my Best of 2017 list.

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Love like water by Meme McDonald

Amy Love Like WaterSet in Alice Springs, during the 80s, Love Like Water is about Cathy, a young white woman looking for a new life after a loss, and Jay, an Aboriginal DJ, trying to find a way to survive. It’s a typical, very Australian, coming of age story, with the added stresses of racial tension and the pressures Indigenous people face. The setting is harsh, but beautiful, and the physical and emotional landscapes are poetically and movingly described.

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How to be both by Ali Smith

Amy How to be BothHow to be Both is a clever, strange, moving novel about art, life, death and love. There are two stories, one set in modern day, about a girl dealing with the loss of her mother, and the other about an Italian painter in the 1460s. The stories are linked, and full of surprises. There’s probably so much that I didn’t get, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Memories of May by Juliet Madison

Renee memories of mayMemories of May is the fifth book in the Tarrin’s Bay series but can be read as a stand alone. Olivia is a single mother who runs a bookstore previously owned by her grandmother, May. When Joel, the author of a popular memoir, comes to town to run a short writing course, Olivia decides to join it and write a memoir of her grandmother’s life. May’s memories of a long-ago romance unfold as Olivia steps outside her comfort zone and falls in love with Joel.
As a fellow book lover and writer, I found Olivia very relatable. The romance was a slow burn, friends to lovers. The story was sweet and emotionally engaging. I first met Olivia in the previous novel, April’s Glow, and was hoping to see more of her. I look forward to reading more in this series.

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The butterfly and the violin by Kristy Cambron

Hannah The buttterfly and the violinThe Butterfly and the Violin is a sad and gentle tale of two young lovers who were sent to the Nazi concentration camps, how they survived by a small thread of hope, how they were separated and found again, and how poignant and fragile the gift of life is. I was so deeply moved by this story that I purchased my own copy. If you wish for a book that will speak deeply to your heart, this I recommend!

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