Book Reviews Book Reviews Over 50s Lifestyle

What’s On Your Bookshelf? – December 2023

December 15, 2023
What's on your bookshelf?

It’s time for the final What’s On your Bookshelf? link up for 2023! 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.

We returned home from our European River Cruise on December 2 and hit the ground running preparing for the Festive Season – my favourite time of the year.

I have still made time for my reading as it is one of my self-care tools and a day doesn’t pass when I don’t read. I’m on track to have read 100 books in 2023 and this was helped by having my Stunning Book club books and also the prompts from the 52 Book Club Reading Challenge.

What’s On Your Bookshelf? December 2023

52 Book Club’s 2023 Reading Challenge is now completed!

In November I only had one book left to complete my first attempt at the 52 Book Club’s 2023 Reading Challenge. The last prompt to fill was a book ‘Set during a war other than WW1 or WW2’. I researched Goodreads for some suggestions and one was Little Women which coincidentally was the book our Stunning Book Club was reading in November. For me, as I read the book it was set during the Civil War period in the United States, however, I didn’t feel it represented the prompt as it centred more around the March sisters rather than the War.

Following my good friend and #WOYBS? co-host Donna’s (from Retirement Reflections) lead, I researched further and was so glad I did. I discovered March by Geraldine Brooks (review below) the story of the absent father from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. This was definitely a better fit for the prompt.

52 Book Club Challenge 2024 – the List has arrived and I’m in for 2024 – are you?

I enjoyed the 52 Book Club Challenge 2023 and have decided to take the challenge again this year. I managed to read all 52 books as part of my reading to complete the challenge and discovered some new authors and genres.

Here is the link to find all the information about 2024 Reading Challenge – The 52 Book Club
Some of the prompts are definitely unusual however there are guides on both the 52 Book Club website and Goodreads to help you decided what books might be a good fit for the prompt.

My top 5 favourite books during 2023

December is a good time to reflect on the books I’ve read during the year and although there were a few that I would not read again, there were quite a number that I loved which stayed with me long after finishing the book. I must say it was difficult to cull to 5 only as I read some really good books this year.

My top 5 favourite books during 2023 earned their place because I enjoyed reading them, they made me think and I would have rated more than 5 stars on Goodreads if that option was available.

March by Geraldine Brooks – My rating ✭✭✭

From the author of the acclaimed Year of Wonders, a historical novel and love story set during a time of catastrophe, on the front lines of the American Civil War. Acclaimed author Geraldine Brooks gives us the story of the absent father from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women—and conjures a world of brutality, stubborn courage and transcendent love.

An idealistic abolitionist, March has gone as chaplain to serve the Union cause. But the war tests his faith not only in the Union—which is also capable of barbarism and racism—but in himself. As he recovers from a near-fatal illness, March must reassemble and reconnect with his family, who have no idea of what he has endured. A love story set in a time of catastrophe, March explores the passions between a man and a woman, the tenderness of parent and child, and the life-changing power of an ardently held belief.

My Review

This book was a wonderful surprise and I enjoyed it immensely. Having just finished Little Women which didn’t grab me at all, I stumbled upon March and I’m so pleased I did. The book is about the Little Women’s father with the emphasis on his life before marriage and then during his time serving in the Civil War. His story and then the relationship with Marmee. In Little Women I found the characters ‘one-dimensional’ and perhaps too perfect. In March, Geraldine Brooks has captured the ‘real’ man and woman and the many layers that make up their personality.

I would definitely recommend this book although if you loved Little Women you might find that Mr & Mrs March lose their lustre somewhat as you get to know them in March.

As Louisa May Alcott didn’t really enjoy her Little Women, I’m sure she would have approved of Geraldine Brooks’ portrayal of Mr March and Marmee.

Brooks took inspiration from Alcott’s father – a very interesting man, to develop her character, March.

It’s a long book but worth the read.

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

Looking for Jane What's On your bookshelf?

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.

My Review

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)

My Review

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.

When I read it in August I wrote: If you only read one more book this year, make it Homecoming.

Philly Barker is On the Case by Joanne Tracey – My rating ✭✭✭✭✭

In the essence of transparency, Jo is a friend of mine and one of the co-hosts of What’s On Your Bookshelf? However, friend or not, Jo is a talented writer and I’ve loved all of her books but the Philly Barker series is my favourite. I’m sure Philly Barker would make a wonderful Television series on UK TV so if you know of any producers looking for a new show then point them Jo’s way.

WOYBS? Philly Barker

When Chipwell antique dealer Philomena Barker is asked by Detective Inspector Robbie Dawkins to assist with identifying some stolen antiques, she’s only too happy to help.It’s not long before Philly and Robbie identify a pattern – someone is breaking into the homes of elderly farmers in North Yorkshire and stealing their treasured antiques.The investigation takes a deadly turn when their prime suspect is murdered, and Philly and Robbie will need all the help they can get if they’re to solve this puzzle.With Robbie due to retire this case will be his last; but with the murderer one step ahead can Philly solve the case before it’s also her last? (Goodreads)

My Review

I adore Philly Barker and again was very grateful to receive an Advance Reader Copy from author (and friend) Joanne Tracey.

Philly Barker Is On the Case is the second book in the Philly Barker series and it didn’t disappoint. If you love Midsommer Murder meets Antique Roadshow you will love the Philly series. Jo’s attention to detail when describing antiques, combined with the characters is a winner.

Set in the village of Chipwell, Yorkshire, Jo intertwines her love of this area sharing the food and culture with the reader, with the feisty and lovable Philomena (Philly Barker) who 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 finds herself with yet another mystery to solve with the help of retiring Inspector and (Philly’s very close friend) Robbie Dawkins.

The characters are so relatable and Philly does a pretty good job of helping to solve the case. It’s a 5-star rating from me.

None of this is true by Lisa Jewell – My rating ✭✭✭✭✭

I listened to the audiobook narrated by one of my favourites,  Nicola Walker, of Unforgiven, Anika and The Split fame (I might have a girl crush) and  Louise Brealey another British actor who I had not heard of. They were both excellent narrators and brought the story to life.

‘Lisa Jewell returns with a scintillating new psychological thriller about a woman who finds herself the subject of her own popular true crime podcast.

Celebrating her forty-fifth birthday at her local pub, popular podcaster Alix Summers crosses paths with an unassuming woman called Josie Fair. Josie, it turns out, is also celebrating her forty-fifth birthday. They are, in fact, birthday twins.

A few days later, Alix and Josie bump into each other again, this time outside Alix’s children’s school. Josie has been listening to Alix’s podcasts and thinks she might be an interesting subject for her series. She is, she tells Alix, on the cusp of great changes in her life.

Josie’s life appears to be strange and complicated, and although Alix finds her unsettling, she can’t quite resist the temptation to keep making the podcast. Slowly she starts to realise that Josie has been hiding some very dark secrets, and before she knows it, Josie has inveigled her way into Alix’s life—and into her home.

But, as quickly as she arrived, Josie disappears. Only then does Alix discover that Josie has left a terrible and terrifying legacy in her wake, and that Alix has become the subject of her own true crime podcast, with her life and her family’s lives under mortal threat.

Who is Josie Fair? And what has she done?’ – (Goodreads)

Stunned and speechless was how I felt after reading Lisa Jewell’s None of this is True. I actually listened to the audiobook and found myself walking longer, driving longer and listening every moment that I could. I was riveted from the first page and as the story developed I felt a range of emotions – shock, horror, anger, frustration, disbelief – but I was hooked.

Two women meet unexpectedly as they both celebrate their 45th birthdays at the same restaurant. Born in the same hospital the ‘birthday twins’ couldn’t be more different. Alix Summer, married with two children, looks great and appears to have the perfect life. Josie, also married with two children comes from a council estate and carries dark secrets.

When Josie has a brief chat with Alix and discovers Alix has a successful podcast, Josie asks Alix for the opportunity to share her story and what unfolds is unbelievable.

Lisa Jewell weaves a story that is a psychological thriller and even at the end you are left wondering. I highly recommend None of this is True but be prepared to be unable to put the book down, or stop the audiobook until you have finished

I need to add 5 more….because I just can’t stop at 5!

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitana
Becoming Mrs Mulberry by Jackie French
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
A Month of Sundays by Liz Birsky
The Measure by Nikki Erlick

‘Little Women’ our final Simply Stunning Book Club selection for 2023

We finished reading Little Women in early November and discussed when I returned home from holidays. I didn’t enjoy the book and was concerned it was me, however, the other three book club members also didn’t rate the book highly. Perhaps it was a case of reading the book as a child and then later in life with the benefit of our own life experiences. I found the characters a little too perfect or saccharine for my liking although I did warm a little in the second half of the book when the girls were older.

As I mentioned above, after I finished ‘Little Women’, I read ‘March’ by Geraldine Brooks and it has made it to my Top 5 books for 2023 I enjoyed it that much.

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 your top 5 favourite books for 2023.

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

I would also like to take the opportunity to thank you all for your support of our #WOYBS? Link up and sharing your love of reading with us. I’ve enjoyed reading your reviews and found some books and authors I might not have known about.

Blessings & love for the Festive Season and I look forward to hearing about your holiday reading in January 2024.

Happy New Year!

The next #WOYBS will be Thursday January 18/Friday January 19. I’m looking forward to seeing and reading What’s Been on your Bookshelf? during the month.

Sue Loncaric

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Women Living Well After 50

Living Life Your Way


  • Reply Retirement Reflections December 15, 2023 at 09:16

    Hi, Sue – You are truly a Reading Rockstar!! I love that you have given us your top five reads of 2023 (plus five more).
    I also read ‘Philly Barker is on the Case,’ ‘Homecoming’ ‘Lessons In Chemisty,’ ‘March’ and of course ‘Little Women.’ While all were fascinating reads, ‘Philly’ and ‘Homecoming’ were my favourites!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric December 16, 2023 at 13:07

      Hi Donna, I’m not sure about a Reading rockstar but it is a favourite hobby of mine and your insights during our book club meetings is always valuable and appreciated. x

  • Reply Janis @ December 15, 2023 at 10:35

    Wow, what a great list of books! I loved March (one of those lucky, random finds at a second hand shop) and am intrigued by None of This is True (what a great title!). I recently finished The Measure and added my post about it to the WOYBS link up. I love the idea of the 52 book challenge. Just curious, do you read 52 books, or do a few books satisfy a couple of the categories?

    Have a fabulous holiday, Sue!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric December 16, 2023 at 13:08

      Hi Janis, March was certainly a surprise read for me and I loved it! The challenge is about reading 52 books so a prompt for each book. I enjoyed stretching myself and exploring different genres so the challenge was good for that. Have a wonderful holiday and hope you will join us again in 2024. x

  • Reply Debbie December 15, 2023 at 12:17

    What a fabulous post Sue, and we have so many books in common in our top reads for the year! I’m taking on the 52 Bookclub Reading challenge so I’m sure I’ll be asking for some ideas as the year progresses. As Donna said you are a reading rockstar! I agree Jo’s books are all fabulous and she’s right up there on my list of favourite authors and not just because she’s a friend! You are such a great co-host and I love our Stunners Bookclub!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric December 16, 2023 at 13:09

      Hi Deb, I think you will zoom through the book club challenge although there are some tricky prompts this year to make it more interesting. x

  • Reply Jennifer Jones December 15, 2023 at 13:08

    Hi Sue. March is going on my list for sure. I am re-reading Little Women early in 2024, so I’m very interested to read about the girls’ father. I haven’t heard of this book. Looking for Jan will be a definite. It sounds like a book that I’d enjoy. I loved the second Philly. Thank you for all you do Sue, to create the #WOYBS space. I’m so pleased that it will be back in 2024.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric December 16, 2023 at 13:10

      I will be interested in your thoughts if you read March, Jen as I loved it. Looking for Jane was very poignant and it stayed with me for some time. I appreciate you linking up with us each month to share our love of reading. I look forward to you joining us in 2024. Happy reading and best wishes for the Festive season x

  • Reply Bernie December 15, 2023 at 14:57

    If you have read Anne of Green Gables then may I suggest “Marilla”. Like “Marsh” it is a different author looking at a character from the original story. I can’t recommend it highly enough and of course it’s the “original Green Gables story”. I had None of this is True on my waiting list at the library but now I am concerned it might cause me too many nightmares. I also read Homecoming and struggled with parts of it as well for all the reasons you listed. Also agree about “Looking for Jane” and as someone who worked in health care in Canada in the 70’s it was interesting and yet sad. Sadly I haven’t read the Philly ones because I still have to sort out what app I need to do so here in Canada. But they are on my list and not just because I am a blogging acquaintance — I read the free sample on the library app for the first book and loved it! Thanks again for hosting. Perhaps 2024 will see me do the challenge as well — I often don’t read out of my genre and this would make me be more well rounded. Bernie

    • Reply Sue Loncaric December 16, 2023 at 13:12

      Hi Bernie, I will definitely check out Marilla so thank you for your suggestion. You can buy Philly on Amazon in both hard copy or e-book I believe. It would be lovely if you could join us in 2024 and it doesn’t matter if you only like one genre. I usually find if I step away from the genres I enjoy I quickly return. Best wishes to you for the Festive Season and looking forward to connecting in 2024. x

  • Reply marsha57 December 15, 2023 at 15:07

    Oh, I think I will do this book challenge. I do the Goodreads one, but I’ve never done this one. The only book in your top 10 I have read is Lessons in Chemistry. Well, that’s not entirely true because I did read Little Women many, many years ago. I’ve actually surpassed my Goodreads challenge this year, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve read so many good books.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric December 16, 2023 at 13:14

      I hope you do the book challenge, Marsha as I think you would enjoy it. Well done you on surpassing your Goodreads challenge this year. Best wishes to you for the festive season and look forward to catching up in 2024. x

  • Reply Joanne December 16, 2023 at 04:51

    I read a lot of Alcott’s books when I was younger but I have never heard of March. That would have been fun to read back to back. I’ve read just a few of your favorites but have added a few others to my list!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric December 16, 2023 at 13:14

      Hi Joanne, March is a fairly recent book I think written by Gerladine Brooks. I loved it. x

  • Reply Lydia C. Lee December 16, 2023 at 06:43

    I keep seeing and hearing about the Kate Morton and Lisa Jewell books. I really must track them down. I read March but weirdly can’t remember anything you talk of. How strange. It was about 10 years ago tho…so many books etc…#WOYBS

    • Reply Sue Loncaric December 16, 2023 at 13:15

      I only just discovered March and found it much more interesting than Little Women. x

  • Reply Cathy December 16, 2023 at 12:33

    I’m another who read March a few years ago, giving a different insight into the life of the man who (if I remember rightly) was mentioned but only appeared at the end of Little Women. I also have Homecoming waiting in the wings – once the silly season has disappeared that’ll be my next read.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric December 16, 2023 at 13:16

      Hi Cathy, I only discovered March whilst our book club was reading Little Women and I’m so pleased I did. I really enjoyed the depth of characters and learning more about Mr and Mrs March.

  • Reply Gail Is This Mutton December 16, 2023 at 18:11

    Your favourites sound so tempting! I’m really going to have to get the Lisa Jewel. Nicola Walker is also a girl crush of mine, but I’m determined not to fall down the Audible rabbit hole (I love podcasts when walking). I’ve bookmarked the 52 Books Challenge. It does look interesting! It will definitely be a challenge. I’ve enjoyed your reviews this year. Best wishes for the festive season and 2024! x

    • Reply Sue Loncaric December 19, 2023 at 06:26

      Hi Gail, I hear you about Audible and I do like Podcasts as well. It just depends on my mood. Wishing you and your family and wonderful festive season and a fabulous 2024. x

  • Reply Deborah December 17, 2023 at 10:30

    I read a few of the same books – Jo’s obviously, but also the Lisa Jewell and Kate Morton. I love that your bookclub includes baking!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric December 19, 2023 at 06:27

      Hi Deb, the baking is such fun and Jo is a great teacher!

  • Reply Jo December 19, 2023 at 08:12

    I’m very honoured to be included with such illustrious company! I really must do the challenge next year – even if it’s just for the graphic lol. Thanks for being such a fab co-host.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric December 20, 2023 at 05:54

      I think you mean You are the illustrious company the others are included with. You are very talented Jo and I wish you success with your writing now that you are able to focus on your passion without your day job interferring. x

    I love hearing from you and your comments are important to me

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.