November 2020 Books #AmReading

November is usually a tough month, filled with Parents Evenings, assessments, observations… Who knows what this November holds, what with us in lockdown mark 2, with schools still open? I’m planning on working my way through my TBR pile… it’s teetering, and as many as I manage to read, I seem to top up, as well!

bookworm
The Lucky Dress

The Lucky Dress by Aimee Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A cute story of mixed messages, then righting wrongs, all with a lovely dress thrown in (though I almost wish there was more about the dress, in the story!)
Emi is our hapless heroine, who lost the love of her life, and fiancé, Jack, on the eve of their wedding, to not one, but two women.
With her best friend Lisa, and Lisa’s husband, Josh, she ups sticks and leaves life as she knows it, recreating her life in a new town.
Only to find that being a cafe owner means that you might not just pile cakes on a plate, but also pile pounds onto your body.
Then her twin brother is getting married, a wedding she has to attend. Only, it’s to her ex-fiancé’s sister.
AWKWARD!
What follows is a tale which swings from a story based in the past, to the present timeline.
I really sympathised with Emi, but, I was rooting for Jack, too, to be honest!
Lots of fun characters and a quick, easy read, with a feel-good factor, though a tad overly dramatic, at times.

The Choice

The Choice by Claire Wade
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now, I’m not a dystopian fiction fan, by any means, but when I read the blurb for The Choice, my interest was piqued.

I’ve tried my hand at The Handmaid’s Tale, and it wasn’t for me, but this: It involved cake, chocolate, and all things sugary, being taken away from a whole nation of people, by their elected Prime Minister, Mother Mason.
Mother.
The one you should always be able to trust.
Should you?
Olivia is a wife and mother of two. Previous to the new regime, she was a lauded baker. then all she held precious to her was under threat unless she gave up her passion.
Enter a life of calorie counting, mandatory weigh-ins, rationing and secular scheduled exercise.
With no sugar, fat, or anything luxurious, even for a treat.
Until she finds out about an undercover group and initiative, that has been running, to try and take down Mother Mason.
What Olivia wouldn’t give to just be able to bake, once in a while…
That’s a life I would hate, but let’s be honest, the way our health and
wellbeing is being affected, in the modern world, it isn’t even an idea too far fetched…

I found this to be a delightful mix of dystopian and chick lit. It was a great way to break into the world of dystopian fiction: there wasn’t that same dark, heavy feeling as I read, even though there were moments, that showed the serious negative impact that this lifestyle had upon the masses.
And the Shame Boxes. Think modern-day stocks for those who made the mistake of eating wrong, or for failing to hit their weekly exercise targets.
And there was cake.
Thank God for cake!

The Healer

The Healer by Christoph Fischer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve read a couple of other books, by Christoph Fischer, which were in a different genre to The Healer, but I know I enjoyed them, so was sure the same would be the case for this.
And I wasn’t wrong.
The book takes along the journey of healing, concentrating on Erika, a hard-nosed businesswoman diagnosed with the late stages of pancreatic cancer.
She finds an infamous healer, by the name of Arpan, who was renowned twenty years before, for healing suffers, then it was like he disappeared from the face of the earth.
Arpan is recommended to Erika by her personal assistant, who helps her to find where he is hidden, and she goes on to convince him to treat her.
There are so many twists and turns within this, from the scepticism of those who don’t believe in any kind of healing that isn’t scientifically proven, to the actual storyline, and the connections that arise.
Oh, and the ending!
A good read.

Simran

Simran by J.K. Memmi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this book, as the title is the name of someone dear to me, and the blurb sounded extremely interesting.
The story is set with a dual timeline, where we see the main character, Simran as a young woman, going through the motions of arranged marriage, against her inner wishes, but to please her parents, and then a few years later, we have Simran, living in Holland, obviously tormented by happenings over the last few years.
The story was very interesting, and though some may seem extreme, the story echoes other real-life stories out there, with family honour, deceit, the power of money, and heartache.
As I said, a very interesting story, but the reason I couldn’t rate higher was that I feel that the writing could have been a bit better. I struggled with some areas, but the story, itself, kept me going.

A Summer to Remember

A Summer to Remember by Sue Moorcroft
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a lovely, feel-good (in the end) read!
Clancy needs to escape. Right now.
After finding her fiancé in a rather compromising situation, beamed across a conference call, then being made to look the bad guy by her partners at work, and forced to leave, Clancy takes refuge in Nelson’s Bar, a small village where her wayward cousin Alice has shares in a property and business, that just happens to need a caretaker.
Except there are a few little issues: the back story as to why Alice has this half ownership to the Roundhouse and its cottages, and the other partner, Aaron.
There are ups and downs, conflicts, broken hearts, mended hearts, family clashes, and a huge heap of romance too.
I really enjoyed reading this, and will be sure to look out for some more Sue Moorcroft books in the future!

Love Offline: Looking For Romance In Real Life

Love Offline: Looking For Romance In Real Life by Olivia Spring
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Emily is living her life through social media.
After a humiliating break-up, her confidence has been shattered, and there is no way she wants to step out of her protective bubble, preferring to stay in, scrolling through all the filtered and edited photos and posts out there.
In steps Chloe, her best friend, firmly living in the pre-social media area, determined to drag her friend out of her dating and social life rut.
What follows is a story of rediscovery of real life, love, disappointment, and not always believing what you see.
I had fun reading this story, showing that life really doesn’t revolve around a screen, and it also highlights how damaging Social Media can be.
As I read, I was pretty sure of what the twist and the ending would be, but it was still a pleasant enough read.

Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India

Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India by Sujatha Gidla

Unable to rate this book fully, as I wasn’t able to finish it.
I was encouraged to get this book, as the idea of a story about the Untouchable caste in India appealed to me, but, unfortunately, it was the writing that made me find it hard to continue.
I wanted this to be a personal story. Instead, it felt like a historical blow by blow account of a particular family’s life, and unfortunately, it wasn’t written in an engaging enough manner to hold my interest. I was expecting to be plunged into the life of the girl, and how she dealt with the stigma of being born into the untouchable caste. It may happen further in the book, but even after skim reading all I found was political stuff, not the heart-rending story I was going for.
I feel disappointed as I really wanted to enjoy this book.

An American Marriage

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Such a buzz was there, about this book, that when it came out, I got it on my Kindle, then it sat there, as I had so many others to read.
I finally got to it, this week, and well, wow.
An American Marriage is not an easy read, by any stretch of the imagination.
Roy is a Black American man, who has risen above humble roots by sheer hard work, with the support of his family.
Celestial is a Black American woman from a family who are considered well settled, never having had to want for anything.
They get together, after a couple of meetings, years apart, and marry.
By some horrible twist of fate, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Roy finds himself in prison, for a crime he didn’t commit.
The story is told in snippets, from both Roy, and Celestial’s point of view, and a little later in the book, from the view of Andre, Roy’s college homey, and Celestial’s childhood friend, and the person who originally introduced them.
This is a book about relationships, injustices and the difficulties of rehabilitating into society after incarceration.
I can’t say I liked or disliked any of the characters. They were normal people, sucked into an abnormal situation.
The prose is beautiful, and I felt a pull of emotions, throughout, especially when reading the exchange of letters between Roy and Celestial, while he is locked up.
As I said before, not an easy read, but a very poignant one.

Well Met (Well Met, #1)

Well Met by Jen DeLuca
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a fun read!
If you like a little Shakespeare, you’ll love the underlying Bard-connections to this romance that wouldn’t go amiss as one of old Will’s original plays!
Emily has come to stay with her sister to help her with recuperation after an accident. Perfect timing as she wrestles with her own grief at her five-year relationship breakdown.
She gets roped into joining a summer faire, to please her niece who wants to take part, but can’t without adult supervision.
There are plusses and minuses.
The plusses? A bunch of new friends, bring able to enjoy one of her loves; Shakespeare, and a kilted hunk
The minuses? Having to dress up as a wench, change her name to Emma, and that moody form filler Nazi.
A lot of fun, a little naughty, but plenty of romance!

Well Played (Well Met, #2)

Well Played by Jen DeLuca
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read Well Met and was excited to see that a sequel, Well Played, was out too, so I downloaded asap and devoured it.
Now I’m gutted that I have to wait until the fall of 2021 to read Well Matched!
This time we are still within the Renaissance Faire setting, but the focus of Well Played is on the other wench, Stacy, or Bernadette.
A single woman in her late twenties, Stacey is still living with her parents, kind of. In a small apartment above their garage. Her own foray into independence, and getting out of her small home town was cut short when her mother fell ill, and she was needed.
Since then, she’s been in her old surroundings, unable to move, stuck in a dreary job as a dental receptionist. The only lights in her life, her cat Benedick, and the annual Renaissance Faire that she has been a part of since it started.
Her love life is nothing to write home about, apart from a couple of fumbles and snatched nights with a hunk from one of the travelling acts that come to the fair.
In fact, a drunken night, and reminiscing those fumbles causes her to send an ill-fated message, leading to months of texts and emails, building up to a fantastic reunion at the next faire…
Or will it be?
I loved diving straight back into Willow Creek, all the characters and the excitement of the local Faire, as well as wedding preparations for two of the residents.
Stacey struck me as a great character in the first book, so to read a continuation from her view, was a dream.
I won’t go too far with descriptions, but her messaging amore is built up to be a dream come true partner, and though there are twists, he is everything a woman could ask for!
Fantastic read, and a good build-up for the next one.
Fall 2021, hurry up!

Cheek to Cheek (Got That Swing, #1.5)

Cheek to Cheek by Renee Conoulty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first foray into Renee Conoulty’s writing, and this short story, Cheek to Cheek, has definitely whetted my appetite.
A lot happens in a very short space of time. I almost wish it was a longer story, but then again, I know another book precedes it, so I should really go and get that…!

Saddled - Once a Week at Woody's, Book 1

Saddled – Once a Week at Woody’s, Book 1 by Linda G. Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s been a while since I’ve read something with a high steamy factor, and Linda G. Hill didn’t disappoint!
Sandra works for the local condom company and has a bit of a problem with the support staff, who aren’t impressed with her decision to implement a ‘no romance in the office’ rule.
Michael is a temp, working at the same office, trying hard to make a mark, by weekday, and stripping by weekend at Woody’s.
It’s inevitable.
He’s hot. She’s hot.
But they can’t do anything.
Because of that stupid rule!
Saddled is a fun, light-hearted read, with, as I mentioned at the beginning, plenty to get you hot under the collar!

And there you have it! My November list of books read. My TBR list has reduced(ish) but I’ll be back to reading arcs next!

Which one tickled your fancy?

Chai And A Chat #112 #ChaiAndAChat #CoronaDiaries Week 36

Well, hello there, Peeps! It’s Monday, again. Where is the time going? Three weeks until we can break up, but hey, we still have to get through those three weeks!

Right, have you got your drink?

  • If we were having chai I’d start with a little annoyance. You know the kids have had to be in self-isloation, due to their school closing? Well, it put the prospective viewings off for those two weeks. There were three interested almost as soon as the house went up. One ended up finding something else, the other couldn’t do the Saturday so is coming on Monday, and the third? Uncontactable at the time. It is so frustrating. And to add to it, one of the houses we were interested in ended up being sold, before we even got to go and look at it, so that is a huge disappointment. But, then again, it obviously wasn’t meant to be. Onwards and upwards…
  • If we were having chai I’d come back to the kids and their last week of isolation. I have to say, they hvaea ben pretty amazing, doing everything that they were required to, and to top it off, we had Lil Man’s parent’s evening calls. I’ve been dreading it, as he is due to do his GCSEs this academic year. Last year was a disaster, but at least the children had completed their aacademic learning and were in the throes of revision time. Right now, the government are determined to continue with exams this year for a group of children who will have missed almost a year of proper lessons, with some in isolation and/or quarantine, for several pockets of time. I really don’t get it. Still, the parents evening. It was awesome! He has excelled in everything. I know I’ve mentioned it before that he is not the most academic of children, but he is a tryer. And pretty much each teacher said it was evident that he has been working hard,himself, throughout the lockdown, and even in the summer holidays, as many had dropped grades, but he stayed consistent, or even exceeded their expectations! One proud momma bear over here!
  • If we were having chai I’d tell you that the other big news is that Lockdown 2.0 will officially end on Wednesday this week, but we were told that we will be going from that to the most strict of measures, in tier 3 of the system the government has put in place, because Kent has, within it, some of the areas with the highest numbers, and rising cases. It’s tough. Shops will be open, but we still can’t see our families. I just hope that all these restrictions work…
  • If we were having chai I’d tell you that even though we can’t spend time with family, I have still been making doorstep visits to the in-laws, to deliver bits and bobs, in exchange for my mother in law to give me food she has been cooking for us, while I am in school (bless her!). One thing she made, was something called panjeeri. It is a mixture of things, including nuts and raisins, clarified butter and jaggery, etc. that is eaten as a little snack, but has myriad health benefits. I have been having a spoonful with a cup of tea for breakfast, and it must be working, because I feel a lot better in myself! Never underestimate the power of homemade foods!
  • If we were having chai I’d admit that for the first time in ages, I have blogged every day, and managed a few more creative words for myself, too. And, I celebrated my 6th Blogiversary, too!

This week, I will be busy for three evenings, doing phone call parent evening appointments, and settling in a new member of staff, and hopefully having the house viewed, finally!

And while you’re here, did you sign up for my mailing list? I am in the middle of writing an exclusive Chickpea Curry Lit story for my subscribers, and there will be news, tips and even recipes! You know you want to join… go on! Click the pic below to sign up!

Spidey’s Serene Sunday – Part 299 – Family

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“To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there.”

Barbara Bush

Thank you for that, Spidey.

Family is on my mind, a lot, right now.

If you’ve been reading for long enough, you know how close I am to my family.

We may live at a distance from one another, but we make sure we get together regularly.

Well, we did. Before all this pandemic stuff started.

Since December, I’ve seen my parents once, in August. They live three hours away, and are classed as vulnerable, due to their age.

I can’t risk that, but I hate not being able to get a Pops hug, or a Mum cuddle.

Since March, I’ve ‘seen’ my in-laws, spoken at a distance, on the driveway, and when we were briefly allowed, been into their home for short stints. I can count those one two hands. We usually go there daily. Not anymore.

The kids can go there (when not in self-isloation) as they are part of our childcare bubble, but just the kids. So I drop off at the door, and pick up from the door…

My brother is so far away, and he is used to my parents being able to go over to Helsinki a couple of times a year. Video calls are the norm. But now, it’s been over a year since he physically saw any of his family, due to the travel restrictions.

And now, we are creeping closer to Christmas. Lockdown 2.0 is coming to an end, on Wednesday 2nd December, but for our family, here in Kent, we are still under strict restrictions, being in Tier 3, as cases are still rising, despite the measures the Government set, to try and halt the spread, before the festive season.

I say strict measures, but this is what we can and can’t do. (Tier 3)

  • No mixing indoors, or outdoors with anyone who is not in your support bubble. (But, you can still go shopping with thousands of others as the shops will be open.)
  • If you are gathering with your support bubble, the Rule of Six applies. No more than six individuals allowed.
  • Schools still open, with no additional measaures introduced to aid the prevention of the virus.
  • No pubs or restaurants open, unless it is for takeaway or delivery.
  • Gyms etc. can open, but no indoor exercise classes.
  • No indoor entertainment venues can open.
  • No spectators at sports matches.
  • Avoid travelling to other parts of the country.

Amongst others…

And with school, we are in until 18th December, without a 14 day window to self isolate, before the festive season, when we have been told that, hopefully, up to three households can mix for a total of five days, to be together at Christmas. So, if a child or adult was to test positive in one of the classes, it could ruin any chance of being with family, anyway.

We are really conscious of the fact that both our kids are in Secondary school, where the virus was rife, hence the whole school closing and operating online, for an isolation period, and I work in a Primary school, where we are more likely to have young, asymptomatic pupils, so the risk is mainly to the adults.

And in the Early Years, where I work, we have been told that PPE and social distancing with the kids, is not only detrimental to their wellbeing, but also nigh on impossible.

It’s true.

How do you get a 4-year-old to understand that the adult in charge of them, shouldn’t be really comforting them, when they fall, physically? It’s what they need. How do you deal with the coughs and sneezes, runny noses, and toilet accidents, inevitable at this age, in a Covid-secure way, each and every minute?

I douse myself in sanitiser, I have my anti bac spray, I wash my hands regularly. I wear a face covering or face shield when dealing with parents and other adults, but there are so many places, I can’t protect myself as well as I should be able.

Because I wouldn’t be able to do my job.

And Home Learning for the little ones. Really? Have you actually tried? It’s tough to engage 30 kids when they are in front of you, for a few minutes. At home, on screen, when half may not even log in, is even more detrimental to their early education.

So, we, as a family, need to make tough decisions now.

Do we, if allowed, spend most of the five days we are allowed, mixing with the in-laws? Or do we just pop in for Christmas Day? I’ve already spoken with my parents and we know I can’t go to see them this time. It’s the same for my sister in law and her family. When her other two sisters come home, they already reach the three households, so she wouldn’t, theoretically be able to go over, anyway.

I know my in-laws will just want us to be there, with them the whole five days. But we aren’t sure it’s the safest thing to do. We’ve sacrificed so much, so far…

And how many people will bend the rules, just a little, over those magical five days, because, obviously, the Government know something we don’t, about the virus taking a break over Christmas, leading to a possible third Lockdown after the festive break?

I don’t know about others, but my family means much more than that.

I am prepared to sacrifice seeing any of our loved ones, this year, to ensure, as much as is in our hands, that any future celebrations can happen in a bigger, and better way.

A quiet Christmas, doesn’t have to be less jolly, does it?

There are always video calls, Zoom catch ups, and the hope that soon enough, when vaccinations are approved and implemented, that normality can settle, one more.

So… tell me, what do you think about the whole lockdown/Christmas get together issues?

Have a peaceful Sunday Peeps.  And enjoy your week!  

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS Nov. 28/2020 – Opt

Linda’s #SoCS prompt this week:

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “opt.” Use it as a word or find a word with “opt” in it and base your post on that. Have fun!

If there was a button to press, to opt out of 2020, would you?

Sitting the face of lockdown 2.0, about to head into tier 3 (the strictest of restrictions) for another couple of weeks, it would be easy to adopt the stance that I have hated every moment of this year.

It’s been tough. True.

But would I choose to erase it?

No.

2020 has been momentous for me, for a few reasons.

  • #1 My debut was released!
  • #2 We refurbished the house
  • #3 We put the house on the market so we can concentrate on finding our forever home.
  • #4 I got a promotion.
  • #5 Did I mention, I finally released my book baby!

The world has seen some awful moments, yes, but it’s the little glimmers of joy we should try and show some positivity for.

That’s how I get through life, anyway!

Just opt to adopt
A positive spin on life
It makes things seem brighter

Ritu 2020

Jack and Jill – #RituStyle

Way back in May, I attempted the Story a Day in May challenge, and I have to proudly say that I managed to finish it. A short story, or scene every day. Some longer, some shorter. One that has developed into a novella that I hope to publish soon enough, some scenes that will debut in book two, and a few that may never see the light of day.

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But there are a few that I think deserve an airing…

This one had the following prompt:

Choose a nursery rhyme. That is going to be the plot of your story. The key with this exercise is that now choose an author whose voice you love. Write that story with that character, but in the voice of the author you chose.

I chose Jack and Jill. Here is the full version.

 Jack and Jill went up the hill
 To fetch a pail of water
 Jack fell down And broke his crown
 And Jill came tumbling after 
 
 Up Jack got and home did trot
 As fast as he could caper
 He went to bed
 To mend his head
 With vinegar and brown paper 

And here is my little, silly take!

Jack and Jill held the pail between them, each with a hand on the handle, swinging it gently as they went up the hill.

Jack’s thumb brushed Jill’s hand, accidentally, she thought, as a quickening was felt in her heart, and quite possibly somewhere further south.

She glanced over to him, but he appeared oblivious. Probably all in her mind, as usual.

She didn’t know whose idea it had been to wash the car at the bottom of the hill, but she was more than happy to spend time with this gorgeous specimen. But, to wash, you needed water, and there was, conveniently, a well up at the top of the hill.

Nearing the well, Jill sped up, desperately trying to show how athletic and fit she was, by reaching the summit first, but she hadn’t counted upon the rock that Jack stumbled over.

She gasped as he fell forwards, but it looked like he was about to right himself. Then he lost his footing and went tumbling down the hill, the bucket racing after him because she had let go of it when he first stumbled.

She reached out into the air as if to stop him, but quite obviously that wasn’t going to help because she was still at the top, and he was, well somewhere near the bottom.

The car stopped his rolling, and, from where she stood, it looked like he’d managed to bump his head, rather nastily, on the bucket, as they rolled down, the bucket obviously thinking this was a fun activity, trying to get to the bottom first.

Jill carefully made her way to the bottom of the hill, as fast as she could, but ended the journey with a short tumble of her own. Brushing herself off as she stood, she cursed herself for hurrying.

“Jack! Are you okay? Oh my god, you’re bleeding!” A trickle of blood was making its way down his left temple.

“Am I?” He raised a hand to his forehead, searching for a sore spot, and finding the wetness, looked at the lowered fingers tinged with his blood.

Seeing his suddenly paled complexion, Jill sat down by his side. “Okay, now, what we are going to do, when you feel ready, is I’m going to help you up, and then get you in the car. I can drive us to the hospital – that is if you don’t mind me driving – and we can get you checked out.”

Rummaging in his front jeans pocket, Jack pulled out his set of keys. “Here.” He threw them over to her. “But no hospital. I’m fine. Let’s just go back to my place. I’ve got a first aid kit at home, and it’s nothing, really, just a little bump.”

“But, what if you’ve got a concussion?” Working as a Teaching Assistant at school, Jill was aware of the magic Wet Paper Towel method of making things better, but that was a good way to appease hypochondriac kids… This was a real injury! With blood! She got up and offered her arm to her patient.

“Nah, it’s not.” He took hold of her arm and pulled himself up, almost bringing her back to the ground in the process.

They got in the car, and she gently manoeuvred his precious VW Golf away from the hill, and back onto the road back home.

He stood in the bathroom, looking at his small, but impressive cut, right on his hairline. “At least I can hide that scar with all this hair.”

“Forget that for now, let me clean it, and put a plaster on.” Jill had located the First Aid Kit and taken out some antiseptic and a plaster. She led him to the bedroom, where he could sit down, and she was able to see the injury. “Hmm. It is a bit deep. Are you sure you don’t want to get it seen to? It might need stitches.”

“It’ll be fine.” He looked at my supplies, ready on the bed. “I don’t think Savlon will help. Look, let me sort this out.”

He disappeared to the kitchen, then back in the bathroom. A few moments later, he reappeared, reeking of vinegar, with a strip of brown paper wrapped around his head.

Taking in my look of shock mixed with confusion, he laughed. “Okay, so my name is Jack. Short for Jaikishen. I’ve grown up with a whole host of Indian home remedies, and this,” he pointed to his head, “is one. My Gran, back home, swears that vinegar heals anything.”

“But that’s got to sting!” My own eyes were starting to smart from the smell. Heaven knows what it felt like on his open cut.

“You’ll see, in the morning, it’ll be barely visible.” He sat down on the bed and pulled me down next to him.

“Oh, so I’ll be here to see that, in the morning, will I?” A bit presumptuous, but I wouldn’t mind.

“Well, I might need a night nurse…” He leant in for a kiss.

It would have been a bit longer, but I had to break it. I knew I was kissing the most handsome man ever, but I couldn’t stop thinking about food…

I settled him in his bed, tucking him in, and went to make a cup of tea.

Romance would have to wait until he smelled less like a fish and chip supper, complete with paper wrapping.

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