Books I’ve read recently

Nov 11, 2020 | 0 comments


Books I’ve read recently

I haven’t done a book review for a while so thought I’d write about just a few of the many many books I have read over the last few months. I always read a lot, but lockdown really ramped that up, and I for one was not complaining!
Claire North is a pseudonym for British author Catherine Webb. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was her first novel published under the Claire North name, and was one of the fastest-selling new SFF titles of the last ten years. It was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club, the Radio 2 Book Club and the Waterstones Book Club promotions. Her next novel Touch was published in 2015 to widespread critical acclaim and was described by the Independent as ‘little short of a masterpiece’. Catherine currently works as a theatre lighting designer and is a fan of big cities, urban magic, Thai food and graffiti-spotting. She lives in London. Find her on Twitter as @ClaireNorth42.
I have included this biography of Claire North as I have read several of her books and find the way she writes very interesting


The First Seventeen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

‘ONE OF THE FICTION HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DECADE’ Judy Finnigan, Richard and Judy Book Club

Featured in the Richard and Judy Book Club, the BBC Radio 2 Book Club and the Waterstones Book Club
Winner of the John W. Campbell Award
Shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award


No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before.

Nothing ever changes – until now.

As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. ‘I nearly missed you, Doctor August,’ she says. ‘I need to send a message.’

This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

This is the extraordinary journey of one unforgettable character – a story of friendship and betrayal, loyalty and redemption, love and loneliness and the inevitable march of time. Perfect for readers of How to Stop Time by Matt Haig, The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.

‘An astonishing re-invention of the time-travel narrative. Bold, magical and masterful’ M. R. Carey, author of THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS

‘I don’t say this lightly but The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is one of the top ten books I’ve ever read’ James Dashner, bestselling author of THE MAZE RUNNER

I absolutely loved this, it lived on in my imagination for months. I think the basic premise of the book – what would you do if you could live your life again – is such a universal fascination, that it just hooked me in and I fantasised, in great detail, about what I would do, if I could start again! What would you do?

Other than the living your life again thing, the plot is rather like a detective novel, but played out over several lifetimes. Harry is trying, very hard, to stop something happening


Touch – Claire North

The electrifying new thriller from the author of the acclaimed The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.

Kepler is like you, but not like you.

With a simple touch, Kepler can move into any body, live any life – for a moment, a day or for years.

And your life could be next.


‘Just extraordinary’ Clare Mackintosh, author of I Let You Go

He tried to take my life. Instead I took his.

It was a long time ago. I remember it was dark, and I didn’t see my killer until it was too late. As I died, my hand touched his. That’s when the first switch took place.

Suddenly, I was looking through the eyes of my killer, and I was watching myself die.

Now switching is easy. I can jump from body to body, have any life, be anyone.

Some people touch lives. Others take them. I do both.

Having read Harry August, I was keen to try another novel by Claire North. This one was next. Another fascinating concept – just by touching you, the main character can jump into your body, obliterating you, and stay for a few minutes or decades, leaving you disoriented and distraught when they leave. It raised many interesting trains of thought. The only way this organism can live is to inhabit a body, but by doing so, they deprive the owner of years of their life. Are they selfish? Pragmatic? How else could they live?



The Sudden Appearance of Hope – Claire North

My name is Hope Arden. I am the girl the world forgets.

It started when I was sixteen years old.

A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A friend who looks at me and sees a stranger.

No matter what I do, the words I say, the crimes I commit – you will never remember who I am.

That makes my life tricky. It also makes me dangerous . . .

The Sudden Appearance of Hope is the tale of a girl no one remembers, yet her story will stay with you for ever.

If Hope is not in your direct sight line, you will forget her, completely, within a couple of minutes. Again, a thought provoking concept, How could you live – you couldn’t have a job, or do anything with any continuity. Hope is a thief, and there is almost nothing else she could do. Rather sad and lonely, gripping nonetheless

The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena

‘So full of twists, yet so utterly believable. Loved it’ Richard Osman

***The fast-paced, addictive No. 1 Sunday Times bestseller and the overall bestselling novel of 2017***


You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.
You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

‘Meticulously crafted and razor-sharp. THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR lingers long after you turn the final page’ HARLAN COBEN

‘How well do we ever know those around us? THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR will keep you glued to the pages in search of the answer. Even then, you’ll never guess the truth…until it’s too late’ LISA GARDNER

This has so many twists it’s difficult to keep up. Just as I think I know where it’s heading – poof, another twist! Not just another missing child thriller, truly gripping



The Covent Garden Ladies – Hallie Rubenhold

From the No. 1 Sunday Times bestselling and prizewinning author of THE FIVE
‘A fascinating expose of the seamy side of eighteenth century life’ 
‘Rubenhold’s pages practically reek with smelly, pox-ridden Georgian Soho’ GUARDIAN

In 1757, a down-and-out Irish poet, the head waiter at the Shakespear’s Head Tavern in Covent Garden, and a celebrated London courtesan became bound together by the publication of a little book: Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies. This salacious work – detailing the names and ‘specialities’ of the capital’s sex-workers- became one of the eighteenth century’s most scandalous bestsellers.

Yet beyond its titillating passages lies a glimpse into the lives of those who lived and died by its profits – a tragicomic opera of the Georgian era, motivated by poverty, passionate love, aspiration and shame.

In this modern and visceral narrative, historian Hallie Rubenhold reveals the story behind Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies, and the legion of ordinary women whose lives in the sex trade history has chosen to ignore.

Well, now for something completely different as Monty Python used to say. I watched Harlots series 1 and 2 on iPlayer and couldn’t wait for series 3 to come out. When it did, we watched 1 or 2 a night until they were all gone. Fantastic series, Lesley Manville is outstanding playing a truly evil bawd, although, I have to say, by the end, I was beginning to feel quite sorry for her. She had a horrible start in life and women then had very few options, basically, marriage, the nunnery or the brothel

I’m interested in social history. Not the kings, queens and over privileged elite, but everyday people; how they lived, what a change of monarch meant, what everyday life was like. Ms Rubenhold has also written a book called The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper that was a bestseller, might have to get that one too

In The Wake Of The Plague – The Black Death and the World it Made – Norman F. Cantor

Much of what we know about the greatest medical disaster ever, the Black Plague of the fourteenth century, is wrong. The details of the Plague etched in the minds of terrified schoolchildren — the hideous black welts, the high fever, and the final, awful end by respiratory failure — are more or less accurate. But what the Plague really was, and how it made history, remain shrouded in a haze of myths.

In the Wake of the Plague reveals just how the Plague, arguably the greatest biomedical disaster in history, rocked the sociological, cultural and religious foundations of medieval civilisation.

I hadn’t read anything specifically about the black death before and found this a fascinating read. For sure the American author feels free to pass judgement on historical characters using current values. But we are all subjective in our opinions and I found it easy to pass over. It was quite revealing reading an American’s perspective of European lives and times.

A couple of things were very new to me.  Apparently anthrax could well have been a parallel problem running at the same time as the black death. Medical knowledge of the time could not have distinguished between the two. So many deaths could have been attributed to meat from infected cattle.

A fascinating nugget that has stuck in my memory is the assertion that if one or more of your ancestors caught and survived the plague, the genes passed on will make you immune to AIDS/HIV!

I enjoyed this and found it revealing, with the broad brush connections linking the large changes that were happening at the time and over subsequent centuries



Cook, Eat, Repeat – Nigella Lawson

and finally, because I couldn’t do a book review without a cook book! Still new at time of writing, so expensive still, I’m sure it will come down in price after a bit. I love the way Nigella writes, with anecdotes, stories and recommendations as well as straight up recipes. I’m not really that interested in the beauty industry, but when Nigella wrote a column about it in a Sunday paper, it was one of the first things I turned too each week

I’m still reading this. Having flipped through to skin the recipes, I went back to the start to read it properly and have a little list of things I want to try

Food, for me, is a constant pleasure: I like to think greedily about it, reflect deeply on it, learn from it; it provides comfort, inspiration, meaning and beauty… More than just a mantra, “cook, eat, repeat” is the story of my life.’



Cook, Eat, Repeat is a delicious and delightful combination of recipes intertwined with narrative essays about food, all written in Nigella’s engaging and insightful prose. Whether asking ‘What is a Recipe?’ or declaring death to the Guilty Pleasure, Nigella’s wisdom about food and life comes to the fore, with tasty new recipes that readers will want to return to again and again.

‘The recipes I write come from my life, my home’, says Nigella, and in this book she shares the rhythms and rituals of her kitchen through over 150 new recipes that make the most of her favourite ingredients. Dedicated chapters include ‘A is for Anchovy’ (a celebration of the bacon of the sea), ‘Rhubarb’‘A Loving Defence of Brown Food’, a suitably expansive chapter devoted to family dinners, plus inspiration for vegan feasts, solo suppers and new ideas for Christmas.

Within these chapters are recipes for all seasons and tastes: Burnt Onion and Aubergine Dip; Butternut with Beetroot, Chilli and Ginger Sauce; Brown Butter Colcannon; Spaghetti with Chard and Anchovies; Chicken with Garlic Cream Sauce; Beef Cheeks with Port and Chestnuts; and Wide Noodles with Lamb in Aromatic Broth, to name a few. Those with a sweet tooth will delight in Rhubarb and Custard Trifle; Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake; Rice Pudding Cake; and Cherry and Almond Crumble.

‘Lawson’s latest book is the one I’ve been waiting for her to write…Her aim is to empower and demystify and to encourage everyone to get as much pleasure from cooking as she does.’ Diana Henry, Daily Telegraph

‘Twenty-two years after her first book, How To Eat, Nigella Lawson has produced what feels like its answer: Cook, Eat, Repeat.‘ The Times

Wondering what to read next? Here are just some books I’ve been reading lately, and enjoyed. Click To Tweet

So that’s a few of the books I’ve read recently. Would love to know what you’ve been reading and what you thought of it. Do share

Book recommendations



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