Book Reviews Over 50s Lifestyle

What’s On Your Bookshelf? – My top ranking books for August 2023

August 18, 2023

It’s time for the What’s On your Bookshelf? link up! I’m looking forward to you sharing what you’ve read at our monthly link up co-hosted with my friends Deb from Deb’s World, Donna from Retirement Reflections and Jo from And Anways. Remember to check out what has been on their bookshelves as well.

I think that reading can go in cycles. Sometimes you have several books that you read and love and other times you just can’t get into a book, or the book doesn’t live up to my expectations. It was for this reason that I was a little more selective in my choices and also didn’t rely on the 52 Bookclub Challenge prompts to guide me.

Over the last month, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of the books that I’ve read. Some left me thinking about them long after I’d finished.

My top ranking books for August

Looking for Jane by Heather Marshall – My rating ✭✭✭✭✭

A debut about three women whose lives are bound together by a long-lost letter, a mother’s love, and a secret network of women fighting for the right to choose—inspired by true stories. (Goodreads)

The author Heather Marshall suggests that “when people ask her ‘so what is your book about?’ ‘My first inclination is always to say Abortion. But it isn’t. Looking for Jane is about Motherhood. About wanting to be a mother, not wanting to be a mother and all the grey areas in between. It is about the lengths to which women will go to end a pregnancy and to become pregnant. It’s about women supporting each other through their individual choices and the outcomes of those choices.

I was gripped by this book which evoked so many emotions. The story is about three women and the choices they are forced to make or want to make.

It’s about secrets and confronting societal beliefs and the effect of those beliefs. Set in the 60s, 70s and 80s this book covers abortion and the fight to legalise in Canada. Evelyn and Maggie meet at St Agnes’ Home for Unwed Mothers in the 60s. Both pregnant, lost and frightened they forge a friendship and support each other. We follow their story as well as Nancy, who was not aware she was adopted and Angela who is going through the emotional rollercoaster of several attempts at IVF with her partner.

I felt for all of these women, especially Evelyn and Maggie their experiences and the unforgivable way they were treated and ostracised. I admired the courage of those doctors who performed safe abortions and protected women from ‘backstreet’ abortions which could despite the threat of being arrested. I admired the courage and commitment of women who would not take no for an answer and fought hard to have abortion legalised. The Jane Network and Finding Jane was interesting to read about.

This is not an easy read as the topic is evocative and stirs emotions but it is a must read. The writing is sensitive yet portrays strong women and certainly made me stop, reflect and think.

Homecoming by Kate Morton – My rating ✭✭✭✭✭

Kate Morton is a favourite author of mine and she didn’t disappoint with Homecoming. I rated it 5 stars but it really was 5+. Set in1959 and present day this is another story of family, secrets, what we will do for love, relationships, a long ago mystery and coming home. This is an epic novel and quite long but certainly held my attention.

Adelaide Hills, Christmas Eve, 1959: At the end of a scorching hot day, beside a creek on the grounds of the grand and mysterious mansion, a local delivery man makes a terrible discovery. A police investigation is called and the small town of Tambilla becomes embroiled in one of the most shocking and perplexing murder cases in the history of South Australia.

Sixty years later, Jess is a journalist in search of a story. Having lived and worked in London for almost twenty years, she now finds herself laid off from her full-time job and struggling to make ends meet. A phone call out of nowhere summons her back to Sydney, where her beloved grandmother, Nora, who raised Jess when her mother could not, has suffered a fall and been raced to the hospital. (Goodreads)

As I read the book, I was filled with different emotions especially anger and frustration at Nora who I felt was manipulative and controlling under the guise of ‘what was best for her daughter and granddaughter’. Do we have the right to keep a child’s history even if it might be hurtful?

Kate Morton’s writing is so descriptive and I felt that I was there with the residents of Tambilla, in the Australian bush, the characters and traditions, the reactions to the discovery, as well as Jess who has to come to terms with a history she had grown up with but has now been rewritten.

If you only read one more book this year, make it Homecoming.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler – My rating ✭✭✭✭

Now this was a prompt from 52 BookClub Challenge (a book written by Octavia E. Butler) and although I was sceptical I soon was captivated by the story. This is one of those books that you need an open mind for as it is in the genre of Historical Fantasy which is something I would not normally choose.

Dana, a modern Black woman, is celebrating her 26th birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin. (Goodreads)

The book is confronting and at times uncomfortable reading as it looks as issues such as slavery, white supremacy, racism and sexism. Despite the ‘heavy’ topic and Iooking past the time travel and fantasy, I would recommend it.

Tara Road by Maeve Binchy – My Rating ✭✭✭✭✭

When I need comfort, I turn to Maeve and am never disappointed. I’ve read all of her books several times but as I said they are my ‘go to’ books for comfort and as it happens, Tara Road, fitted nicely into the prompt ‘A Book Set in Dublin’.

Ria lived on Tara Road in Dublin with her dashing husband, Danny, and their two children. She fully believed she was happily married, right up until the day Danny told her he was leaving her to be with his young, pregnant girlfriend.

By a chance phone call, Ria meets Marilyn, a woman from New England unable to come to terms with her only son’s death and now separated from her husband. The two women exchange houses for the summer with extraordinary consequences, each learning that the other has a deep secret that can never be revealed.

Maeve Binchy takes you into the homes of her characters who by the end of the book have become your friends. Ria thinks she has it all – a husband she loves, children she adores and is devoted to, a beautiful home and friends who she loves and cares for. However, life isn’t always as it seems. The characters on Tara Road draw you in, each with their own stories and issues they are dealing with. Maeve’s writing is easy, her characters relatable and loveable and her stories are perfect to enjoy snuggled up with your favourite brew. You are never disappointed with Maeve.

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano – My rating ✭✭✭✭✭

I had seen Hello Beautiful, by Ann Napolitano, on the Goodreads list and in Facebook Groups. Most were complimentary so I decided to select it for my August reads.

William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him. So it’s a relief when his skill on the basketball court earns him a scholarship to college, far away from his childhood home. He soon meets Julia Padavano, a spirited and ambitious young woman who surprises William with her appreciation of his quiet steadiness. With Julia comes her family; she is inseparable from her three younger sisters: Sylvie, the dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book and imagines a future different from the expected path of wife and mother; Cecelia, the family’s artist; and Emeline, who patiently takes care of all of them. Happily, the Padavanos fold Julia’s new boyfriend into their loving, chaotic household.

But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable loyalty to one another. The result is a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations. Will the loyalty that once rooted them be strong enough to draw them back together when it matters most? (Goodreads)

I was pleasantly surprised with this book about the extremely close Padavanos sisters. Each different in their own way yet fiercely protective of each other. After reading the book I discovered that it has been suggested as a homage to Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, however, that didn’t occur to me whilst reading it. I can see the similarities know (or maybe I’m just slow LOL 🙂 ).

Another emotional book and one that I could identify with when comparing my relationship with my sister. I don’t want to go into detail as that will spoil the storyline.

You will definitely need some tissues – for both happy and sad tears but it is one to put on your list.

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt – My rating ✭✭✭✭

Another book I had seen recommended but when I read the summary I hesitated. It didn’t seem like a book that I would enjoy. I was wrong! This was a delightful read.

After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago.

Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors–until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova. (Goodreads)

As I mentioned, this is a delightful read with a bittersweet ending. As you read you forget that Marcellus is a giant Pacific octopus who grudgingly admits that humans are ‘remarkably bright creatures’. The writing is sensitive and if you can get over the idea of communicating with an octopus, you are drawn into the special friendship between Marcellus and Tova at a time when both need each other.

COMING SOON!

Our good friend, author and co-host of WOYBS? Jo Tracey from And Anyways has another book coming up in the Philly Barker series. I was honored to read and Advanced Reader Copy of Philly Barker On the Case. Reviews will be on Goodreads in September but in the meantime check out Philly’s first adventure – Philly Barker Investigates.

My Good reads review

October 21, 2022

‘Midsommer Murders meets ‘Escape to the Country’ meets ‘Antique Roadshow’.
I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of Philly Barker Investigates by Joanne Tracey. Jo is a friend of mine and I have enjoyed all of her books BUT Philly is her best! I’m delighted to see that Jo foray into cozy crime.

Set in the village of Chipwell, Philly Barker has an eye for antiques, the stories they tell and she doesn’t mind a good mystery to solve either. Working in the Chipwell Barn Antiques Centre along with 5 other dealers and her trusty canine side kick Balthazar, Philly turns investigator.

A delightful read, with fun characters who you love to sit with in Ginny’s cafe and enjoy a cuppa from some vintage china, whilst discussing and perusing the antique specialities on offer and their latest ‘find’.

It’s a 5-star rating from me. The story held my interest and I read the book in an afternoon. I love Philly and can’t wait for her next adventure. Will there also be a touch of romance for Philly???

We will have to wait and see.

Philly Barker investigates

Well that’s what has been on my bookshelf during the month, What’s been on yours? I would love you to share with me.

Happy reading and remember to pop over to read what books have been on my co-hosts shelves.

The next #WOYBS will be Thursday September 14/Friday September 15. I’m looking forward to seeing and reading What’s Been on your Bookshelf? during the month.

Sue Loncaric

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29 Comments

  • Reply Retirement Reflections August 18, 2023 at 08:34

    Hi, Sue – I am delighted that August brought you such great books. I’ve read The Homecoming and Remarkably Bright Creatures and loved them both. I agree with you that reading often goes in cycles, and that someone’s 5-star read is another person’s 1-star. Two of my local book clubs both read Remarkably Bright Creatures. One book club unanimously loved it. In the other one, most members found it “meh” and “more appropriate for adolescents.” I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 18, 2023 at 11:47

      Hi Donna, I enjoyed all the books I read in August. Remarkably Bright Creatures was a very pleasant surprise.

  • Reply Alison August 18, 2023 at 09:58

    Fantastic book reviews Sue, I’ll be putting some on my TBR shelf. My son’s fiancée is always asking me to read Octavia Butler as she is a big fan so I’ll have to give her a chance. I’ve got my post ready to go so will link later. 😃

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 18, 2023 at 11:47

      Hi Alison, thanks for your comment and I might try another Octavia Butler book now I’ve been introduced to her. I look forward to reading your post when you link up later. x

  • Reply OnceUponaTimeHappilyEverAfter.com August 18, 2023 at 10:24

    I am happy to read your reviews of a couple of books on my radar, and one that I am currently reading, “Hello Beautiful.” Glad to know you liked it so well. I am struggling to read it because I do so at night with one eye open. I need to try reading it when I’m not half asleep.

    “Homecoming” was on the book club consideration list, I think, for July or August. I was pulling for it to win. Now that I know you highly recommend it, I will be sure to get to it very soon.

    I am reading “The Bird Hotel” which is more like literature with gorgeous writing, vivid descriptions than I am used to reading. The story has been very special, too. A lot of references to music and events from my child- and young adulthood.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 18, 2023 at 11:49

      Hi Leslie, The Bird Hotel sounds interesting so I will definitely check it out. I’m sure you will love Homecoming, I’m a Kate Morton fan x

  • Reply Jo August 18, 2023 at 13:15

    Wow! Some great reads in this list. Can you believe I’ve never read a Kate Morton or a Maeve Binchy? I really must rectify that!

  • Reply Janine August 18, 2023 at 14:45

    Hi Sue – what a successful reading month you have had. I’m probably going to end up putting all of those on my never ending book wish list. Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful weekend

  • Reply Toni Pike August 18, 2023 at 18:44

    These sound fantastic, Sue – congrats on all that great reading.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 22, 2023 at 15:38

      They really were good reads, Toni – on a deeper level. x

  • Reply Debbie August 18, 2023 at 20:31

    What a great post full of books you obviously enjoyed Sue! I have so many to add to my list from your post :). I agree wholeheartedly with your review of Homecoming, it was such a delight and I felt exactly the same about Nora! I’ve seen a few of the others you listed so now I have your reviews I won’t hesitate to add them to my list. Thanks for being such a fabulous co-host, I always look forward to your reviews as we seem to be on the same wavelength in many ways 🙂 x

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 22, 2023 at 15:43

      Hi Deb, it really was an enjoyable month of reading. I didn’t include The Buccaneers which I enjoyed listening to. The books I included were all different and I think that is what I need to explore more – different genres. I’m going to do the 52 Bookclub Challenge next year. It isn’t difficult and you do find some new authors. x

  • Reply Suzanne@PictureRetirement August 18, 2023 at 22:44

    Hi Sue, your reading list for the month sounds fantastic. I have been in an off-cycle lately and have just recently read two fun books to break the cycle and get back on track with my reading. I will definitely add a couple of your suggestions to my ‘read list’.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 22, 2023 at 15:44

      Hi Suzanne, I enjoyed these books immensely and thoroughly recommend them. Each were different and I think that helped as sometimes I tend to go for the same genre from a comfort reading point of view. x

  • Reply KymPossible August 19, 2023 at 00:16

    I’m trying to decide which Octavia Butler book I’ll tackle for the challenge (assuming I have time!) and have seen pretty good feedback on Kindred. I also wound up loving Remarkably Bright Creatures, to my surprise. Well enough that I think I’ll buy it.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 22, 2023 at 15:48

      Kindred was really good once I got used to the idea of time travel. I’ve not read any of Octavia Butler’s books before and have seen mixed reviews. I will try another one though. Remarkably Bright Creatures as a surprise to me too and I really did enjoy it. x

  • Reply Joanne August 19, 2023 at 04:14

    I didn’t make that connection between Little Women and Hello, Beautiful either until I just read that on your blog. Now I can see similarities. It sounds like you had a really phenomenal month of reading!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 22, 2023 at 15:49

      Hi Joanne, I didn’t make the connection either until I read it on Goodreads, I think. I loved all of the books I read this month, Joanne. x

  • Reply Lydia C. Lee August 19, 2023 at 08:30

    All my friends are reading Hello Beautiful at the moment and loving it! I will get to it soon(ish). I’ve never read any Maeve Binchy books but when I worked in a book shop in the 80’s, she was massively popular. I think I read a short story by her and was quite surprised it was not what I expected, but so long ago I can’t remember any details…

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 22, 2023 at 15:52

      I really enjoyed Hello Beautiful, Lydia. Maeve is like a cozy doona that you can wrap around you when you need some comfort. I read her short stories but prefer her stand alone novels. x

  • Reply marsha57 August 19, 2023 at 10:15

    I thought Kindred sounded like a book I would like, and then I realized I’ve already read it! I enjoyed it but was uncomfortable at the same time. I absolutely loved Remarkably Bright Creatures. It might be my favorite book this year. It was just written so beautifully. Thanks for sharing these. I’ll add them to my TBR list.

    https://marshainthemiddle.com/

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 22, 2023 at 15:53

      Hi Marsha, it was quite different to anything I had read before although as you say at times the theme made me think. History needs to be acknowledged – the good and the bad. x

  • Reply Gail Is This Mutton August 19, 2023 at 16:14

    Certainly sounds like a great month for reading, I’d like to read all of these! Have a good weekend Sue x

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 22, 2023 at 15:53

      I’m sure you would enjoy all of my recommendations this month, Gail. x

  • Reply Jennifer Jones August 20, 2023 at 16:14

    This is an interesting bunch of books Sue. I’ve just put Looking For Jane on my tbr after reading your comments. I think I have Kindred on the kindle for the Octavia Butler prompt. I didn’t link up this month due to my eyes, but had to pop in to see what you’ve been reading. Hoping to be back next month.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 22, 2023 at 15:55

      We missed you Jen and I hope that you eyes are okay and it isn’t too serious. Kindred was good and from what I read was probably one of Octavia Butler’s better books. x

  • Reply Janet Alcorn August 21, 2023 at 06:39

    Looking for Jane sounds amazing, though also probably upsetting. Thanks for sharing such an interesting reading list!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric August 22, 2023 at 15:56

      Looking for Jane did stir emotions and I really felt for those women who had to resort to backyard abortions or the young girls spirited away to a Home until they had their baby. They really had no choice or rights back then. x

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