Book Reviews Over 50s Lifestyle

What’s On Your Bookshelf? March Edition

March 17, 2023
What's On your Bookshelf?

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 was out of action first week of March with a heavy cold and nasty cough. As someone who likes to be ‘on the go’ generally, taking time out was not easy. I did listen to my body as you can read in my post: The importance of taking TIME out, listening to your body & acceptance.

The upside to not being well and confined to just resting, (if there is one), meant that I could indulge in reading and I managed to read a few excellent books. You may need to make a cuppa as I’ve loads to share this month.

My Book of the Month – Firefly Lane – Kristin Hannah – 5 stars

Kristin Hannah is a bit hit and miss with me, I’ve enjoyed a number of her books, yet others I struggled to read. Firefly Lane was certainly a 5-star read for me and although I have several 5-star reads this month, I’m making Firefly Lane my book of the month.

I felt all the emotions reading this book and it has stayed with me long after I finished. Tully and Kate have been friends for 30 years. An unlikely friendship but one that has stood the test of time. Tully, working hard to find her place in the world after a less than ideal childhood. Kate wanting love and family. Like all long lasting friendships there are ups and downs, time apart but when life throws devasting curve balls Tully and Kate are there for each other.

I found the characters likable and yet at times frustrating and I certainly did not predict how the story would unfold.

If you were a teen in ’74 this book will evoke memories of life at that time – the music, the angst of the teen years and best friends.

I rated this 5 star because I enjoyed the book, the characters and the emotion it evoked.

52 Book Club Reading Challenge

The Challenge is going well and I’m filling in the prompts with relevant books. I found a post in the 52 Book Club Reading Challenge Facebook group which was a little disconcerting though and it made me pause for a moment of reflection. One of the members has finished the challenge and it is only March! Now good for them, and they obviously have much more time on their hands but it made me wonder if they are putting too much emphasis on completing the challenge rather than enjoying (or at times plodding through) the books they read.

I’m an avid reader, but I’ve learned to slow down and really take in what I’m reading. Delve a little, ponder and reflect rather than rushing through, finishing the book and ticking it off the list.

So for me, 2023 is about reading in a more mindful manner and taking my TIME.

What are your thoughts? Are you someone who enjoys reading but doesn’t want to go beyond the story? Or do you enjoy going down ‘rabbit holes’ or getting to know the characters and really taking time to understand why the author has written the book?

Prompt #7 ‘A City or Country Name in the Title’ – The Rio Affair by Micah Barnett – My rating ★★★★★

Fast paced and action packed The Rio Affair by Micah Barnett had my attention from the start. Miles Ronan, an FBI agent hasn’t seen his father for over 30 years. His father, Frank Ronan an ex-cop, on the FBI most wanted list, vanished along with $40million he discovered during a drug bust. Frank obtains a new identity living in Rio. When Miles is notified that his father and his wife have been murdered in Rio, he is called to identify the body. As he pieces together what his father has been up to over the last 30 years. He learns more than he bargained for including a half sister who has disappeared. Working with Marie a local journalist, Miles is forced into a world of corruption and danger as he fights against time and local authorities to find his sister. Who can he trust? Will he find Letitia in time? I highly recommend this book and was delighted to receive and advance review copy for free.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Prompt # 10 – ‘Books on the Cover’ – A Month of Sundays by Liz Byrski – My rating ★★★★

I loved this book and didn’t want it to end. A Month of Sundays by Liz Byrski is a delightful story of friendship, finding yourself and letting go. Adele, Ros, Simone and Judy are the four members of an online book club. They all live in different States in Australia and have never met in real life.

When Adele is asked to house sit for friends in the Blue Mountains, NSW, she takes the opportunity to invite the other three to join her for a month. On the agenda are weekly book discussions with each suggesting a book that reflects who they are.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the characters and as I belong to a similar online book club I could relate to the different personalities.

Spending a month together had the potential to challenge everyone but what developed was a deep, rich friendship with love and support for each other.

I highly recommend A Month of Sundays.

Prompt #14 ‘A Survival Story’ – The Riviera House by Natasha Lester – My rating ★★★★★

Last month my Book of the Month was The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester. I enjoyed it so much I selected another of her books to read. Whilst I gave this book a 5-star rating it was a similar theme to The Paris Secret and similar writing. For example, there are two time periods in each book and a link from modern day to WWII days there is also the Vintage Fashion theme which Natasha Lester is known for in her books. Set in Paris 1939, this is a heart-wrenching story of survival, love, loss and betrayal. Èliane is living with her family as Germany prepares to invade Paris. Her love and knowledge of art leads her to be useful to the Nazis cataloguing famous artworks for the Germans to take. Together with her brother, Luc and others she works against the Nazis to ensure the artworks are not lost forever. She falls in love with Xavier before the war but is shocked to discover he is now working for the Germans. Who can she trust?

In 2015 Remy is still grieving the loss of her husband and child in a car accident and comes to the South of France to a stunning home she has inherited. Determined not to love again and feeling the guilt of still living, she is hoping to overcome her grief through her Vintage Clothing business. She meets Adam a fashion photographer who has his own issues. Together they discover a painting which will ultimately link Remy to WWII and her heritage, and in the process, find each other.

I enjoyed The Riviera House immensely although I just can’t imagine what people went through during WWII. The writing is vivid and I felt I was there with the French Resistance – such bravery and courage whilst always carrying fear.

Prompt #28 ‘Includes A Funeral’ – Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. – My rating ★★★★★

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I wasn’t sure what to expect from Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, although everyone seems to be talking about it at the moment with mixed reviews. It was a pleasant surprise. Such a poignant story about love but also about not fitting in, fighting for what you believe in and want. Elizabeth Zott believes that there is no such thing as average woman. In the 1960s Elizabeth is a scientist who is struggling to find her place in an all-male workplace. She meets the brilliant but introverted Calvin Evans, a Nobel prize winner and someone who falls deeply in love with her. Theirs is a special bond but when Calvin dies in an accident and Elizabeth is pregnant with his child, she finds that an unmarried mother in the ’60s who wants a career in a male dominant world is not popular.

A good debut novel and one that I thought I wouldn’t enjoy but by the end I had changed my mind. Well worth the read.

Prompt #37 – ‘Written in the Present Tense’ – Never Let Go by Lori Duffy Foster – My rating ★★★★

Can you imagine one day having a happy marriage and enjoying your baby then the next day your life is turned upside down? I was given an Advanced Reader Copy of ‘Never Let Go’ by Lori Duffy Foster and it certainly had me from the first page. This book covers social and relationship issues such as illegal adoption, how or if relationships survive traumatic experiences and also how far you would go for someone you love. There were twists and turns which kept my attention and I felt a range of emotions. I would definitely recommend ‘Never Let Go’ for those who enjoy a good psychological thriller.

Prompt # 38 – ‘An Enemies to Lovers Plot’ – The Hating Game by Sally Thorne – My rating ★★★

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne is your typical ‘Enemies to Lovers Plot’ so perfect for Prompt #38. Lucy and Josh are rivals at work but what happens when there is the prize of promotion and love suddenly shows up? This is a light read and definitely one for a beach read. It had some cute moments but after a while I tired of their game.

Feeling like a VIP

Recently, my dear friend, author baker, sunrise chaser and co-host of #WOYBS, Jo Tracey, (she is a busy lady and she still has a day job) asked me to read her latest work and provided me with an Advanced Reader Copy. I’m always honoured when an author puts their faith in me and asks me to read their work. I’m a huge fan of Jo’s and have read all of her books. the only problem is she can’t write them fast enough for me!

I can’t actually review it at the moment although I believe Jo will be taking advanced orders soon, but I can tell you I read it in an afternoon! It is a delightful book, set in Australia and will be perfect for a Christmas read.

Okay, so I’ve been a tease but Jo has written several other books so why not check those out whilst waiting for her ‘Christmas read’ to be published.

Please visit Jo’s website, Joanne Tracey – Author to find all of her books. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Book Clubs

The Stunning Book Club group

I was disappointed that I missed our end of book, Book Club Baking session to complete our reading of Jane Austen. Since our Stunning Book Club started we have read all of the Bronté Sisters books and then moved on to Jane Austen. We read and discuss the book and then our star baker, Jo takes us through a baking session from a recipe which relates to the book. It is certainly a fun way to finish.

Our next author is Charles Dickens, starting with Great Expectations and so far we have read to Chapter 20. I find Dickens easy to read and am enjoying the book. I did see the original movie (yes I am that old) but can’t remember having read the book.

The Kitchen Confidential Cook Book Club

As I mentioned last month, I have joined a new book club which concentrates on Cook Books. A member selects a cook book and then we all select and make a recipe from the book, along with a review and if the book should have a place on our bookshelf.

Last month was the  Chris Kimball’s Milk Street Tuesday Night’s Mediterrean and you can read my review HERE

The next book selected is the

The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen apparently this is a classic cookbook and rated as ‘one of the most influential cookbooks of our time’. I hadn’t heard of the book but it is popular in the US. I will write more about this next month and also what recipe I selected.

Moosewood cookbook

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.

Sue Loncaric

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30 Comments

  • Reply Jo March 17, 2023 at 08:44

    There are a few on this list I think I’d enjoy. I’ve had problems reading Kristin Hannah (just one of those things) but enjoyed the first series of Firefly Lane on Netflix – I’m yet to watch the second. Thanks for the shout-out and thanks to my lovely bookclub ladies for helping me name Mannus Ridge.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 20, 2023 at 07:48

      Kristin Hannah is hit and miss with me. I’ve enjoyed some but not all of her books, Jo. This one was a good one though and I didn’t realise it had been made into a series. Always love promoting your books so no problem at all. x

  • Reply Retirement Reflections March 17, 2023 at 09:19

    Hi, Sue – I am so glad that you are feeling better. You pose a great thought about challenges. Do we focus on the end point or the journey? Although I have done both, my reading experience is always enriched when I focus on the later…and even more rewarding when I discuss with friends.
    Thank you for your recommendations. You have listed some great books here.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 20, 2023 at 07:49

      Thanks, Donna, it took over a week to feel back to normal and I’m not a good patient. I get torn between taking a break between books to really digest what I’ve just finished and starting the next book. It is a fine line but I’ve certainly slowed down to appreciate what I’m reading rather than just on a superficial level. x

  • Reply leannelc March 17, 2023 at 09:23

    I watched Firefly Lane on Netflix and really enjoyed it – I see that they’ve made a second series, but with my goldfish memory I’d have to go back and re-watch to the first one to remember what happened (or maybe I could just read the book!)

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 20, 2023 at 07:50

      Hi Leanne, I didn’t realise there was a series, but we don’t have Netflix so I suppose that is no surprise. The book is good although long. x

  • Reply Jo Harrison March 17, 2023 at 09:49

    These all sound great and I’ve added them all to my TBR list, although I have Lessons in Chemistry up next anyway. I’ve only read one Kristin Hannah book ‘The Nightingale’ and it is one of my favourites, hoping I’ll enjoy Firefly Lane just as much. Recently I have read The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku, Honeybee by Craig Silvey, The Girl in the Green Dress by Jeni Haynes (harrowing!) and Anne’s House of Dreams by LM Montgomery. Enjoyed them all for different reasons. Thanks for the recommendations Sue

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 20, 2023 at 07:51

      Hi Jo! Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. I enjoyed ‘The Nightingale’ although I haven’t enjoyed all of Kristin Hannah’s books. My daughter suggested ‘The Happiest Man on Earth’ which I read but I haven’t read your other suggestions. I will take a look. Have a great week and happy reading x

  • Reply OnceUponaTimeHappilyEverAfter.com March 17, 2023 at 11:27

    Oh, I liked Firefly Lane so much. I was a junior and senior in 1974 and the book was a trip down Memory Lane. I liked the characters and the story and the time period. The book club read it and Lessons in Chemistry. The book we are reading now, The Woman with a Cure, is similar to Lessons in Chemistry. Glad you enjoyed those two. Pinning these other books…always glad for recommendations. I am listening to The Dressmakers of Auschwitz. Wow. Just wow.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 20, 2023 at 07:52

      It was a trip down memory lane, Leslie, wasn’t it? I will check out The Woman with a Cure and I can imagine The Dressmakers of Auschwitz would be a harrowing read. Thanks for the suggestions. xx

  • Reply Bernadette March 17, 2023 at 21:53

    Hi Sue, thank you for your thoughts on these varied books. I particularly read with interest your review of Lessons in Chemistry which is on my shelf to read. I just finished Trust by Hernan Diaz which is about the failure of the stock market in October 1929. It is a fascinating read told in many different voices. It also, unfortunately, seems very timely in the U.S. this week.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 20, 2023 at 07:53

      Trust sounds very interesting, Bernadette although as you say a little too close to home for those of you living in the U.S. with all that happened last week. Take care and thanks for your comment. x

  • Reply Joanne March 18, 2023 at 04:08

    I really enjoyed Firefly Lane too; it was turned into a series on Netflix (at least it is here in the states!) and that’s pretty cute… but not as good as the book in my opinion. So far 3 of the books I’ve picked for the 52 book challenge have bee trilogies (that I didn’t realize when picking) and I MUST read all the books in the series anytime I even remotely enjoy the story.. so yeah while I can easily read 10-12 books a month it will take me a full year to finish this challenge. It sounds like a wonderful reading month with so many 4 & 5 star reads!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 20, 2023 at 07:54

      Sometimes I get disappointed when they make a movie or a series based on a book, Joanne. I didn’t realise Firefly Lane was a Netflix series but it is available in Australia apparently. The positive side of not being well was that I read some really good books to keep me entertained. x

  • Reply handmade by amalia March 18, 2023 at 04:38

    I’m adding A Month of Sundays by Liz Byrski to my TBR list, sounds fun. Thanks for the party.
    Amalia
    xo

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 20, 2023 at 07:55

      It was a lovely read, Amalia and I hope you enjoy it. x

  • Reply Thistles and Kiwis March 18, 2023 at 05:18

    I got to about page 20 of ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ and gave up. I might try it as an audio book since everyone is going on about it, but I just could not get into it. ‘The Rio Affair’ sounds good.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 20, 2023 at 07:56

      I didn’t have high expectations for Lessons In Chemistry but was pleasantly surprised. In retrospect I think it was a bit slow to start but the story unfolded well. Sometimes books either grab us or they don’t that’s what is wonderful about life – we are all different with different ideas, likes and dislikes. x

  • Reply Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com March 18, 2023 at 07:58

    I’ve read a few other books by Kristin Hannah, but not Firefly Lane. I’ll check it out. Lessons in Chemistry was a good read for our book club that generated a lot of great discussion. I love that 52-week prompt! In my WOYBS post, I recommended a book that could work for #46 (hint, hint). It could work for a few others too, but those spaces were taken.

    I’m glad you are feeling better!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 20, 2023 at 07:59

      Thanks for the hint, Janis for #46. the 52-week prompt is a great idea and I’m working my way through without trying to rush my reading. Have a lovely week. x

  • Reply Janine March 19, 2023 at 19:27

    I haven’t read Firefly Lane but loved both of the Netflix series. The Rio Affair sounds good and I have A month of Sundays by my bed waiting to be read. Also a few others on your list sounded interesting so I might look out for those too.
    I agree that some people when given a reading challenge might be rushing through to just complete and tick everything off. I much prefer to take my time reading and (trying) to absorb the story.
    Great selection of books. Thanks for sharing

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 20, 2023 at 07:59

      Hi Janine, we don’t have Netflix so I haven’t seen the series but I did enjoy the book. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on A Month of Sundays when you have finished. Have a great week! x

  • Reply Debbie March 20, 2023 at 08:06

    You’ve been busy Sue despite being sick for a week! Your reviews are all fabulous and I like that you point out slowly reading a book can be better than rushing through and I can’t believe someone has already finished the 52 book challenge!! I have a number of your books on my want to read list and appreciated your review of Lessons in Chemistry, as I’ve heard many mixed reviews and wasn’t sure about it. You’re such a great reader I always enjoy your posts 🙂

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 28, 2023 at 09:03

      Hi Deb, sorry for the late reply – where has March gone? We will be writing about our next What’s On Your Bookshelf? before we know it. Lessons in Chemistry may be an acquired taste. I wasn’t sure about it at first but once I got into it I enjoyed the story and characters. x

  • Reply Gail Is This Mutton March 24, 2023 at 19:57

    I love books set in the 70s so will check out Firefly Lane. My word, that’s a lot of reviews. The 52 Book Club prompts are such fun, a good way to add different reads.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 28, 2023 at 09:09

      I didn’t realise Netflix had made a series of Firefly Lane, but several readers have told me. The 52 Book Club prompts are taking me to new genres which is great. x

  • Reply Lydia C. Lee March 28, 2023 at 06:37

    You are powering through the books. I didn’t love Lessons in Chemistry as much as everyone else. I found it a little partonising with the feminism (and yet not that feminist at the same time….) but everyone in my book group adored it and keeps talking about it so I’m guessing I’m the odd one out on that (I have another friend who got so irritated she couldn’t finish it, so I’m not alone, just def the minority. I think there’s a show or a movie coming. #WOYBS

    • Reply Sue Loncaric March 28, 2023 at 09:13

      I know that Lessons in Chemistry had mixed reviews, Lydia. I also love that we all enjoy different things and there is no right or wrong way to read a book. You like it or you don’t. I can imagine a movie I think but not sure which actors I would choose. x

  • Reply Melinda B May 10, 2023 at 17:00

    Hi Sue, I’ve just discovered your website, which is fantastic, thankyou 😊 I’m a keen reader and appreciate your suggestions and will check them out. There’s one book I’d like to recommend, I read it last year and it’s still stayed in my mind, it’s called Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz – it’s a murder mystery but narrated by the victim, a young woman. The story is about her and the woman who finds her body and their stories intertwine. Despite the dark subject matter, it was the most beautiful book and so very touching, i was absolutely bawling at the end. It’s one of my favourite books I’ve ever read, I highly recommend it. I know you can still buy it from Big W in the $12 section.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric May 12, 2023 at 17:04

      Hi Melinda, I’m so pleased your found my website. Our next What’s On your Bookshelf? is next Friday 19th May. I will definitely check out Before You Knew My Name it sounds like just the genre I enjoy. Thank you for visiting and sharing with me. xx

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