Winter Games by Rachel Johnson

About the book

Munich, 1936. She doesn’t know it, but eighteen-year old Daphne Linden has a seat in the front row of history. Along with her best friend, Betsy Barton-Hill, and a whole bevy of other young English upper-class girls, Daphne is in Bavaria to improve her German, to go to the Opera, to be ‘finished’. It may be the Third Reich, but another war is unthinkable, and the girls are having the time of their lives. Aren’t they?

London, 2006. Seventy years later and Daphne’s granddaughter, Francie Fitzsimon has all the boxes ticked: large flat, successful husband, cushy job writing up holistic spas . . . The hardest decision she has to make is where to go for brunch – until, that is, the discovery of a photograph of Daphne sends her on a quest to discover what really happened to her grandmother in Germany, all those years ago.

A dazzling tale of secrets and betrayal, Winter Games is powerful novel of innocent lives caught up in the march of history.

Reviewed by The Accidental Reading Group

“a story which looks at English girls going to Germany before WW2 to ‘finish’ This part is relatively good, however we all found the parts set in contemporary times very tedious with a lot of brand name dropping. Not well written: one member even felt that she had read something remarkably similar before”

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The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price by Wendy Jones

About the book

Everyone has to make decisions about love. Wilfred Price, overcome with emotion on a sunny spring day, proposes to a girl he barely knows at a picnic. The girl, Grace, joyfully accepts and rushes to tell her family of Wilfred’s intentions. But by this time Wilfred has realised his mistake. He does not love Grace.

On the verge of extricating himself, Wilfred’s situation suddenly becomes more serious when Grace’s father steps in. Up until this point in his life, Wilfred’s existence has been blissfully simple, and the young undertaker seems unable to stop the swirling mess that now surrounds him. To add to Wilfred’s emotional turmoil, he thinks he may just have met the perfect girl for him.

As Wilfred struggles in an increasingly tangled web of expectation and duty, love and lies, Grace reveals a long-held secret that changes everything . . .

Reviewed by Waterlooville Library

The majority of us enjoyed this book – we liked the character and the style of writing”

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The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

About the book

Nombeko Mayeki is on the run from the world’s most ruthless secret service – with three Chinese sisters, twins who are officially one person and an elderly potato farmer. Oh, and the fate of the King of Sweden – and the world – rests on her shoulders.

Born in a Soweto shack in 1961, Nombeko was destined for a short, hard life. When she was run over by a drunken engineer her luck changed. Alive, but blamed for the accident, she was made to work for the engineer – who happened to be in charge of a project vital to South Africa’s security. Nombeko was good at cleaning, but brilliant at understanding numbers. The drunk engineer wasn’t – and made a big mistake. And now only Nombeko knows about it …

Reviewed by Locks Heath U3A Group 1

Funny and off the wall. Suspend disbelief”

star rating ****

 

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The Rapture by Liz Jensen

About the book

In a merciless summer of biblical heat and destructive winds, Gabrielle Fox’s main concern is a personal one: to rebuild her career as a psychologist after a shattering car accident. But when she is assigned Bethany Krall, one of the most dangerous teenagers in the country, she begins to fear she has made a terrible mistake. Raised on a diet of evangelistic hellfire, Bethany is violent, delusional, cruelly intuitive and insistent that she can foresee natural disasters – a claim which Gabrielle interprets as a symptom of doomsday delusion. But when catastrophes begin to occur on the very dates Bethany has predicted, and a brilliant, gentle physicist enters the equation, the apocalyptic puzzle intensifies and the stakes multiply. Is the self-proclaimed Nostradamus of the psych ward the ultimate manipulator, or could she be the harbinger of imminent global cataclysm on a scale never seen before? And what can love mean in ‘interesting times’? A haunting story of human passion and burning faith set against an adventure of tectonic proportions, “The Rapture” is an electrifying psychological thriller that explores the dark extremes of mankind’s self-destruction in a world on the brink.

 

Reviewed by Book Lovers

“We thought the ending was improbable so rather weak, but it was a good read – each page had to be turned. Well written and exciting”

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Blood Knots (a Memoir of Fishing and Friendship) by Luke Jennings

About the book

As a child in the 1960s, Luke Jennings was fascinated by the rivers and lakes around his Sussex home. Beneath their surfaces, it seemed to him, waited alien and mysterious worlds. With library books as his guide, he applied himself to the task of learning to fish. His progress was slow, and for years he caught nothing. But then a series of teachers presented themselves, including an inspirational young intelligence officer, from whom he learnt stealth, deception and the art of the dry fly. So began an enlightening but often dark-shadowed journey of discovery. It would lead to bright streams and wild country, but would end with his mentor’s capture, torture and execution by the IRA. Blood Knots is about angling, about great fish caught and lost, but it is also about friendship, honour and coming of age. As an adult Jennings has sought out lost and secretive waterways, probing waters ‘as deep as England’ at dead of night in search of giant pike. The quest, as always, is for more than the living quarry. For only by searching far beneath the surface, Jennings suggests in this most moving and thought-provoking of memoirs, can you connect with your own deep history.

Reviewed by Waterlooville Reading Group

This is much more than a book about fishing. It’s a beautifully written memoir with hidden depths. Lots of starting points for discussion”

star rating ****

 

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The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

About the book

When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else’s life

Reviewed by Enjoying Books

We enjoyed it enormously; it was a pleasure to pick up, it had humour, deeply emotional yet life affirming. Please read! Hidden depths…gorgeous.

Star rating: ****

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Across the bridge by Morag Joss

About the book

When a bridge collapses in the Highlands of Scotland, dozens of people vanish into the river below. A car hired by a woman tourist was filmed pulling onto the bridge moments before it fell. Now numbered among the missing, the woman seized her chance to start her life over.

Reviewed by Fareham Library 5:30

We liked the overall plot and the description of the setting but we weren’t sure if the book was about how and why people go missing or a thriller. There was disagreement on the ending – some weren’t sure what happened, others disliked the ending as it didn’t resolve the characters.

Star rating: ***

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The Queen of new beginnings by Erica James

About the book

Clayton Miller’s life is a mess. His career as one of the country’s best comedy script writers has stalled and his long-term term girlfriend has left him. Just when he thinks his life can’t get any worse, he commits a spectacularly public fall from grace and is banished to the middle of nowhere until the dust settles.

Reviewed by Bookends, Hayling Island

A fairly predictable, light hearted read.

Star rating: ***

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Kalooki nights by Howard Jacobson

Fixated on the crimes that have been committed against his people, Max Glickman is drawn into the family history of an old childhood friend. It leads him to one conclusion – there can be, and should be, no release from his Holocaust obsessions.

Review by Shipton Bellinger WI

Only 2  of 10 liked this book, many hardly starting it let alone finished. Writers do make the exploration of a social group into good novels bit I feel Jacobson failed to engage with his readers. A pity

Star rating: **

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The Outcast by Sadie Jones

About the book

1957, and Lewis Aldridge is travelling back to his home in the South of England. He is straight out of jail and nineteen years old. His return will trigger the implosion not just of his family, but of a whole community.
A decade earlier, his father’s homecoming casts a different shape. The war is over and Gilbert has recently been demobbed. He reverts easily to suburban life – cocktails at six thirty, church on Sundays – but his wife and young son resist the stuffy routine. Lewis and his mother escape to the woods for picnics, just as they did in wartime days. Nobody is surprised that Gilbert’s wife counters convention, but they are all shocked when, after one of their jaunts, Lewis comes back without her.
Not far away, Kit Carmichael keeps watch. She has always understood more than most, not least from what she has been dealt by her own father’s hand. Lewis’s grief and burgeoning rage are all too plain, and Kit makes a private vow to help. But in her attempts to set them both free, she fails to predict the painful and horrifying secrets that must first be forced into the open.

Reviewed by Cambridge Reading Group

We all agreed a very gripping book and very insightful for a first novel. Had the author personal experience? We all ‘felt’ for Lewis and so much wanted things to go right for him which we felt they were starting to do at the end.
Star rating ***

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